I stepped outside my comfort zone on Friday, way out.
I found myself down on Van Buren in downtown Phoenix. If you are from Arizona or talk to anyone who lives in the area you will know that this is the street known for the prostitutes that walk it. It is the street that as immature pre-teens we joked about and teased our classmates, accusing them of living there or working it.
As you can imagine this is the last place that I would normally consider spending my Friday night. However, there I was.
Before that night I had no idea. I had no idea the world in which I was about to be exposed to. Each night I sleep comfortably while there are thousand of young girls walking the streets as modern day slaves. I really thought that being a prostitute was a chosen life. I was naïve and ignorant to the facts. Many of these girls don’t choose this life; they are kidnapped from their homes and forced into it.
“Our society doesn’t think of prostitution as slavery. It is perceived as a desperate lifestyle chosen by “those people” in “that other part of town”. But it is time to understand the truth.”
The statistics for Arizona alone are paralyzing and heartbreaking. The average age of a child prostitute in Phoenix is 13 years old.
Here are 10 facts that were news to me.
- 1. Slavery has been outlawed in every country but still occurs everywhere
(1 The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/index.shtml)
- 2. Human Trafficking is now considered the 2nd largest and fastest growing illegal trafficking activity in the world.
(2 United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, 2008, http://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/human-trafficking/index.html)
- 3. The United Nations estimates the total market value of human trafficking at $32+ billion-a-year.
(3 United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, 2008, http://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/human-trafficking/index.html)
- 4. 80% of victims are women and 50% are children
(4 Trafficking in Persons Report 2007, U.S. Department of State,http://www.state.gov/g/tip/rls/tiprpt/2007/)
- 5. Child prostitutes serve between 100 to 1500 clients per year, per child.
(5 Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, 2007, http://www.usdoj.gov/criminal/ceos/sextour.html)
- 6. One million children are forced to work in the sex industry every year. Between 100,000 and 300,000 children in America are at risk for sex trafficking each year.
(6 Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, 2007, http://www.usdoj.gov/criminal/ceos/prostitution.html)
- 7. Among the millions trafficked each year hundreds of thousands are teenage girls, and others as young as 5, who fall victim to the sex trade.
(7 Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, 2007, http://www.usdoj.gov/criminal/ceos/sextour.html)
- 8. Child pornography is a multi-billion dollar industry and among the fastest growing criminal segments on the Internet.
(8 National Center for Missing and Exploited Children http://www.missingkids.com)
- 9. As many as 2.8 million children live on the streets, a third of whom are lured into prostitution within 48 hours of leaving home
(9 Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, 2007, http://www.usdoj.gov/criminal/ceos/prostitution.html)
10. The average age of entry into prostitution in Phoenix and U.S. is 13 years old
(10 Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, 2007, http://www.usdoj.gov/criminal/ceos/prostitution.htm)
Armored with love and little bit of training, I hit the streets with an organization called The Hope House. They sponsor a program called The Rescue Project. This is an organization and a group of people that have a heart for girls on the street.
The Rescue Project operates two separate homes, one for young women ages 9 to 17 and one for women ages 18 through 30. While in the home each participant receives mentoring by trained Life Coaches, life skills and career skills training, access to therapy and counseling, nutrition, the opportunity to receive their GED or high school diploma, access to a licensed physician, and legal help if needed.
Myself along with a van full of other passionate people, visited several hospitals in the Phoenix area and spoke to the staff nurse on duty. We gave them much needed resources and contact information about The Hope House. I even got a chance to speak to a staff social worker who had never heard of The Hope House before. She could recall many instances where young girls come into the ER with broken bones, bruises and other injuries only to go back to the same place that caused them. It was so empowering to walk out of there knowing that the next girl that comes in off the street may be rescued from her bondage due to a simple packet of paper, an honest conversation and a passionate heart.
Here are some links and resources to inform and activate you.
There is a war going on in Phoenix!