The sex trafficking in our neighborhoods

By Yvonne Abraham GLOBE COLUMNIST  MARCH 27, 2019

You don’t have to take a person’s passport to enslave her.

There are countless ways to force unwilling women into the sex trade. It is not necessary to lure them from China and hide them in massage parlors they can’t leave. It is possible to trap them in plain sight, where most of us don’t see their plight or powerlessness.

Let’s face it. Hardly anybody would have noticed the women victimized in the Florida sex trafficking operation exposed last month were it not for the fact that a very rich, very famous client was charged with soliciting prostitution at a massage parlor run by the traffickers. There is no evidence Patriots owner Bob Kraft was connected to the trafficking, or even knew about it. But his prominence brought the Florida victims into view nonetheless.

 

Can we care about sex trafficking without talking about Kraft? Lord, let’s hope so. Because what we glimpsed in Florida is but a sliver of a gigantic, and intractable, phenomenon we should face.

The mentors at My Life My Choice, which serves sexually exploited children and youth, have seen all the ways young people can be forced into prostitution. They’ve lived it themselves.

“Love was my passport,” said Audrey Morrissey, who was pressed into prostitution when she was 16 by the father of her baby. “It was like a hamster wheel I couldn’t jump off. I had so much at stake.” She started working the Combat Zone for him because she was afraid he’d leave her, and she stayed, even though he abused her, because she was hooked on him, and the drugs he introduced her to. Eventually, she believed she wasn’t good for anything else.

“You’re damaged goods,” said Morrissey, now in her 50s.

The average age at which the clients she and others serve at My Life My Choice were forced into the sex trade is 14. All but a couple of them — the Boston-based organization served about 185 girls, trans, and non-binary youth last year — were born in the United States. Many were sitting ducks: vulnerable, with messed-up home lives. About 85 percent were under DCF supervision.

“There’s this idea that a trafficker is a big, bad person who is out there,” said executive director Lisa Goldblatt-Grace. “It’s usually someone who weasels into their community or in their family.”

Tonya, another mentor, was first exploited at 12, by a cousin who knew how much she needed the refuge of his family. After raping her himself, he let his friends pay him to do so, said the 50-year-old, who did not want her last name used. After that, she went from pimp to pimp, completely dependent on each of them.

She sees her own entrapment in the girls she now counsels, except now, with help from social media, it’s even easier for pimps to spot vulnerable targets.

She saw one group of girls pulled into prostitution, one after another, by a man who offered them free tattoos. She sees gang members forcing 15-year-old girls into prostitution with threats to kill them and their families.

About one in four of the young girls who came through My Life My Choice last year had ties to gangs, said Goldblatt-Grace.

And once they’re trapped, they’re easier than ever to hide, thanks to the Internet, which has migrated the sex trade from the streets to anonymous hotel rooms. Escape, even in broad daylight, is dangerous and feels almost impossible, Tonya said.

“Even when the john leaves, she can’t go for help because the pimp says he will kill her,” Tonya said. “The trauma is the same, if they bring a woman from another country, or if they take a child from Maine and put her in a hotel room in Boston, where she knows nobody except her pimp.”

Some argue that legalizing prostitution would reduce sexual exploitation, leaving the industry to those who freely choose sex work. But studies have found that trafficking victims end up in legal brothels, too. And that women who work in regulated prostitution experience violence and trauma at similar rates to those who work in the shadows.

There’s enough there, and in the stories of survivors at My Life My Choice, to give johns pause every time they visit a “spa” where sex is on the menu.

Then again, if they truly cared whether the women whose bodies they’re buying really wanted to be with them, we wouldn’t be here in the first place.

Globe columnist Yvonne Abraham can be reached at yvonne.abraham@globe.com and on Twitter @GlobeAbraham

 

https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2019/03/27/the-sex-trafficking-our-neighborhoods/vmj9FrJI8B8qhG5y6poVLM/story.html

Dear Johns — An Open Letter to Sex Buyers

Published in the Opinion section in the Boston Globe

When we heard the news that Patriots owner Robert Kraft was recently charged with allegedly buying sex, we were angry and devastated. But because of our experience as trafficking survivors, we know that the real story here is not one man. The real story is all of you who think it is acceptable to buy someone. Here is what we want you, the buyers, to know:

1. We are human beings. We are not toys or sexual objects. We have feelings. Our exploitation began before we turned 15, as is common in the commercial sex industry. Because someone we trusted took advantage of our vulnerabilities, we were brought into an industry that robbed us of our childhoods.

2. The worst part of being in “the life” was having to have sex with strangers — yes, you. Afterwards, we felt dirty. We couldn’t scrub that feeling off our skin. Imagine what you would feel if you or someone you love was in our shoes.

3. The more you buy us, the more we suffer. In order to have sex with you, we had to disassociate. It was like we weren’t even there when it was happening. You might have had our bodies, but you didn’t have our souls.

4. We believe that the pain is the same whether you have sex with an exploited adult or an exploited child. Whether you use words like “prostitution” or “trafficking,” exploitation is exploitation so don’t kid yourself one isn’t a victim. You may be able to convince yourself that this is a choice or what a woman wants — but whether you are in “the Life” because someone is forcing you, someone is pretending to love you, or you have nowhere else to turn, it is all trauma, and it is degrading. Even more than that it is dehumanizing.

5. What we have survived would’ve broken you. We are stronger than you know. We have people we can rely on at My Life My Choice, an organization that supports survivors like us. There are women who been in “the Life” and are now our role models. And we support each other as we are reclaiming our voices or finding them for the first time. We are finishing high school, going to college, getting jobs, building healthy relationships. You did not break us. We will survive this, but you have to live with what you have done.

Now you know.

You can no longer pretend that you don’t. What you do now matters. Based on our experiences, you are probably a middle-aged man who knows about supply and demand. It is demand that fuels this multibillion-dollar industry.

If you didn’t buy people, people wouldn’t sell people.

Sincerely,

H. (age 19), J. (age 15), and P. (age 17)

The Globe does not identify victims of sex crimes. H., J., and P. are youth leaders at My Life My Choice, which has received support from Robert Kraft and funding from the New England Patriots Charitable Foundation. My Life My Choice is a nonprofit that works to end commercial sexual exploitation of children by empowering youth and their allies to fight back.

 https://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/2019/03/18/opinion-dear-johns-open-letter-sex-buyers/utcec5ZqYwKRHBzrXAlk0J/story.html

 

A Call to Action for Patriots Nation

By Lisa Goldblatt Grace, Co-Founder and Executive Director of My Life My Choice and  Audrey Morrissey, Associate Director and National Director of Survivor Leadership.

The heart-wrenching details emerging about the lives of exploited women forced to work at the Asian Orchid Massage parlor may have shocked members of Patriots Nation, but, sadly, were not shocking to us at My Life My Choice who deal with the realities of commercial sexual exploitation every day.

 The potential silver lining in the explosive media coverage of the Jupiter, Florida, case is a long overdue national conversation about an industry that exploits thousands of vulnerable women and children across the United States — and why it has been able to flourish for so long. This industry hides in plain sight — in strip malls and hotel rooms across the country, in well-to-do suburbs as well as under-resourced communities. It keeps growing because of cultural norms that have allowed us to turn a blind eye. But times are changing, thanks in part to leaders like Chief Daniel Kerr from the Jupiter Police Department and extending to the media who are finally setting the record straight about the harms this industry causes and deflating the myth that this is a “victimless crime.”

 For My Life My Choice, this is personal. We are a survivor-led organization that serves minors who have been victims of the commercial sex trade and, as a Boston-based organization, we have been proud members of Patriots Nation with strong ties to the team.

 In the face of our disappointment, we are searching for answers and we are searching for hope. We know that when the cameras fade and the interest of the public wanes, a multi-billion dollar industry of exploitation will still be there. But our community can take a number of steps to turn this brief media frenzy into lasting change.

 So, we are issuing a challenge to Patriots Nation who, we hope, will join us in righting this wrong:

 First, get educated. Learn about the issue. This is an epidemic and it is happening in our community and every community across this country. As service providers, we are acutely aware of the trauma, degradation and dehumanization that is part and parcel of the commercial sex industry. Among the young people we serve, the average age that they are lured, forced and coerced into the commercial sex industry is 14 years old. Most adults in the industry began when they were children. Whether the victim involved is an adult or a child, from the United States or from another country, forced by a gun to her head, forced by allegiance to an exploiter, or forced because of a lack of options—it simply does not matter. It is always wrong to buy a human being.

 Second, educate others. Whether it's your children or your fellow Patriots fan, we need honest conversation, frank education, and a call for change regarding human trafficking.  Most notably, as pointed out by former Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi, “It’s some tough conversations that parents will have to have because the New England Patriots are in the fabric of all families in this region.”  We need to educate young men that it is never okay to purchase another human being and we need to educate vulnerable girls, boys and transgender youth how to protect themselves from exploiters.

 Third, commit to being an active disruptor.  For adults, we need to shift the narrative and explain that what is being discussed is not a punchline, a joke or fodder for a meme on social media. From bachelor parties to business trips, we need to commit to speaking up when friends or colleagues opt to participate in exploitative acts. Employers need to follow the lead of the Attorney General’s Employers Against Sex Trafficking initiative and implement zero tolerance policies for employees participating in exploitation.

 Finally, help us heal. From the women surviving the Asian Orchid salon to the young people served by My Life My Choice, service providers lack the resources they need to support the many survivors recovering from their exploitation. Do what you can to support organizations in your community.

 While Patriots Nation is reeling, we can come back from this more educated, more compassionate, and more committed to social justice in our communities. We need to say “enough!”— and end this once and for all.

 

 

 

The Wall: A Barrier and Source of Instability

BY: Tina Valila, LCSW, Director of Youth Services and Sonja Solberg Potter, Senior Director of Operations

While the partial government shutdown has ended, it’s effects may be long-lasting for the most vulnerable in our communities.  The safety net so many relied upon to keep food on their tables and a roof over their heads was stripped away creating a feeling of desperation and re-traumatization of going without. 

For over a month, we heard heart wrenching stories about the government shutdown and the effects on Federal employees and their families.  And while these stories are important, another group of people directly impacted by the shutdown were the individuals that access government benefits such as SNAP food benefits and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).  Fights over a wall created real barriers and instability for highly vulnerable populations. 

 My Life My Choice serves some of the most vulnerable children and young adults in the community—victims and survivors of the commercial sexual exploitation of children. As minors they were victimized at the intersection of poverty, racism, and sexism, and therefore need these federal benefits to find safety and stability as young adults.  Food stamps, domestic violence programming, and financial assistance are services that they rely on.  At the threat of losing these benefits and safety net, many of our young people became even more vulnerable, increasing their likelihood of re-victimization. Recovery from human trafficking is a long journey riddled with steps forward and back. Most of our girls we work with do not have friends and family as a safety net during tough times. Below are two stories of two of our mentees who sought support from their My Life My Choice Mentor during the recent shutdown.

 While on a visit with her mentor, Brenda, a 21-year-old mother of a two month old, talked about a phone call from her Department of Children and Families (DCF) worker informing her that there was no funding for her SNAP benefits. It was suggested that she try and make what she has last until mid-March, or until the government has reopened.  Brenda, who has already survived so much, having been exploited in the sex industry for two years until age 18.  She turned to her mentor and said, “I am desperate and I won’t let my son go without”.   

 Genesis, age 20, was told the same by her caseworker at the Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA).  Genesis had been working with My Life My Choice for 5 years.  During this time she was able to exit the commercial sex industry, become a mother, earn her GED, and enroll in a certificate program for a career in the medical field.  She has worked incredibly hard to keep a roof over her head while attending school and being a full-time parent.  It is imperative that she receive monthly benefits so that she is able to continue to provide for herself and her family.  She called her mentor crying, “Now what am I going to do? I did all of this for nothing! Now I am going to have to do things I don’t want to do”.  

 We know these are just two stories out of thousands. Their feelings of desperation and need to do whatever was needed to protect their children was real, and fortunately in these instances their mentors were able to support them – helping keep them from the dangers of the commercial sex industry.

 While our mentees are extremely vulnerable, they are also some of the most resilient girls and women anyone will ever meet. We will continue to support survivors of commercial sexual exploitation during these uncertain times and let our mentees know that they are not alone. But even with our support, the threat of additional shutdowns is very real barrier, and it is prohibiting the stability and support that they so desperately need to continue to thrive. Without these necessary resources, where would they be left? 

Justice for Cyntoia Brown: A Call to Action for Public Health

BY: Lisa Goldblatt Grace, Audrey Morrissey, and Ashlee Espensen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED BY: Boston University School of Public Health

POSTED ON: January 24, 201

By the age of 16, Cyntoia Brown had experienced multiple rapes, physical and mental abuse, run away from home, and was being sold for sex by a pimp named Garion McGlothen or “Kut Throat.” On the evening of August 6, 2004, her life would change forever when she was sold to a 43-year-old perpetrator named Johnny Allen. Brown shot and killed Allen after he became violent and she feared for her life.  Two years following her arrest, Brown was tried as an adult for murder and robbery, and was given a life sentence.

After a 15-year-long battle for her rights and dignity, Brown was finally granted clemency after serving 13 years in prison, and will be released on August 7, 2019.

A lot has changed since 2004. States are better at recognizing that there is no such thing as a “teenage prostitute,” and in fact, more than 30 states have Safe Harbor laws to ensure victims of the commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) are treated as victims and not criminals. This cultural awareness and shift is what ultimately led to Brown receiving clemency.

As awareness and policies shift, it is time for a coordinated public health approach to preventively address the inherent violence, trauma, and mental health challenges behind this exploitation, along with the cyclical nature of CSEC and its impact on families, to protect vulnerable youth like Brown.

Every day, young people are bought and sold for sex in our communities. They are deceived, manipulated, or coerced into the commercial sex industry. The commercial sexual exploitation of children is an outrageous form of child abuse that pits vulnerable and marginalized youth up against a multi-billion dollar sex industry.

Adolescent girls, particularly those abused, neglected, or exposed to family violence and addiction, are especially vulnerable to recruitment by “pimps.” (Female, male, transgender, and non-binary youth are all at risk of commercial sexual exploitation; for the purposes of this article, we have focused on the unique needs of cisgender girls.) It is reported that the most frequent age of entry into sex trafficking nationally is 12 to 15 years old. For the young people we serve at My Life My Choice, a Boston-based survivor-led program aimed at combatting CSEC, the average age of entry has held steady at 14 years old over the past three years. Traffickers systematically target vulnerable girls by frequenting locations where they congregate–face-to-face and online.

While we serve girls of all races and ethnicities from communities throughout Eastern Massachusetts, we disproportionately see low-income girls of color. Commercial sexual exploitation is a human rights issue that is integrally connected to racism, classism, sexism, and gender-based violence. As public health professionals, it can be far too easy to see the commercial sexual exploitation of girls as inevitable and sewn deep into the fabric of our society. It is not. Young victims of commercial sexual exploitation are hidden in plain sight–in our schools, group homes, juvenile justice facilities, and probation departments. As a result of familial abuse, they are often first seen as victims in the child protective services system and, later, as delinquents in the juvenile justice system, criminalized for the exploitation they have suffered.

The public health implications of CSEC are severe and cumulatively impact victims throughout their life course. Survivors face profound mental and physical consequences ranging from depression, psychological and physical abuse, sexual assault, sexually transmitted diseases, infectious diseases, substance dependency, and PTSD—some of which can be passed down to the children of victims. Moreover, CSEC stunts the social and economic development of victims, presenting huge hurdles in their road to recovery and freedom. The sex industry flourishes by capitalizing on systems of oppression that shape cultural norms around power, equity, and gender. Strategies to disrupt the sex industry must use a public health approach that is focused on systematic change, as well as social and economic determinants of health that affect victims.

Brown was born with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder as a consequence of her biological mother’s substance abuse. She was given up for adoption at 8 months old, and while she was provided a generally stable home, she was a vulnerable to CSEC and other forms of violence and abuse at a very young age.  She also spent two years living in Department of Children’s Services (DCS) facilities. McGlothen exploited these vulnerabilities and used them as a means to control and sell her. In response, the juvenile justice system criminalized Brown as an “adult prostitute” rather than treating her as a victim of CSEC. Brown’s story is not unlike many that we see at My Life My Choice. Similar to Brown, themes of trauma and abandonment are central to the narratives of the girls we serve. Girls recount a profound sense of being alone, without resources, and are taught by exploiters that they have “chosen” this life, that no one will believe them, and that there is no way out.

A similar case to Brown’s is currently playing out in Ohio. When Alexis Martin was 15, her pimp was murdered and robbed by a rival pimp while she was in a room nearby being raped by her pimp’s brother. Martin was charged with murder and is now serving a minimum 21-year sentence because prosecutors argued she helped plot the robbery and thus was culpable in the murder despite never pulling a trigger. Her earliest possible parole hearing is in 2034. Similar to Brown’s case, advocates are working around the clock to fight for justice for Martin.

Girls across the United States deserve better. This is not about Cyntoia Brown and the publicity her case has received, but about the thousands of victims of CSEC and the countless more at risk of exploitation. They deserve child welfare and juvenile justice systems that are aware of the risk of exploitation and proactively training workers to respond to this risk. Massachusetts’ Department of Children and Families and the Department of Youth Services have created policies and practices aimed at insuring that vulnerable young people receive compassion and resources. They deserve long term interpersonal support from a trained caring individual—ideally a survivor themselves—who understands that a path to safety and stability is neither easy nor linear and works intentionally to build a sense of hope. And they deserve communities who recognize that the commercial sex industry is not in fact in the oldest profession but is instead the oldest oppressor. Public health is uniquely poised to make this kind of impact. Brown—and the countless other girls in our neighborhoods whose stories echo her pain—are worthy of care, dignity, and respect.

Talking to Kids About "Surviving R. Kelly"

The recent documentary, “Survivor R. Kelly”, tells the stories of the women and children who were abused and psychologically imprisoned by R. Kelly. He used his fame to approach them in schools and malls and make them feel special and cared for. As one of our Survivor Mentors said, “If R. Kelly was standing in front of anyone, how could they say no to him if he’s offering them the world?” He used the same tactics as a pimp, identifying their vulnerabilities, isolating his victims from the world and those they cared about, degrading them, forcing them to perform sexual acts, all while brainwashing the young women and their families into believing that he loved them.
Despite all of this information becoming public, his fans are still applauding R. Kelly. Four days after this documentary aired, he was at a club in Chicago that had to turn people away. Most of these fans were women. One woman tweeted “I’m so mad…I’m not there. I wanna be HELD HOSTAGE” (emphasis hers). Many people do not believe his victims or are saying that they chose to be there and should have walked away if they didn’t like what was happening.

It is so important that we are all talking to our youth about this as they are talking about it with each other, whether they have seen the documentary or not. For the young people we serve at My Life My Choice, what happened to these children very closely mirrors their own stories. They were also swept off their feet by someone who promised them love, only to be abused, raped and told that they “wanted it”. They are watching the world rally around R. Kelly and are hearing that because he was famous, rich, and male, what he did is acceptable. They are learning that the victims are to blame in this situation and that if they talk about what happened, no one will believe or support them.

As parents, service providers and community members, we must help the young people in our lives understand that the R. Kellys of this world are not more important than those they harm. And for victims of commercial sexual exploitation, we need to show them that we are listening to them and believing them. As their trusted allies, we can work together to remind them that they are valued and are more than what has happened to them. The My Life My Choice Survivor Mentoring Team looks forward to the day when the rest of the world believes in our youth the way you do.

Sincerely,
The My Life My Choice Survivor Mentoring Team

5 Things We Are Thankful For

At My Life My Choice, we are thankful to be able to support our youth through every up and down life throws their way. We are sustained by celebrating each and every small, yet so significant, glimpse of hope and positive change in our mentees’ lives. Here are just five of the many things we have to be grateful for this holiday season at My Life My Choice.

 

1.       With the support of her mentor, Anna, age 17, started her first treatment for tattoo removal.  She told her mentor that she feels that she’s taking control of her life for the first time in a while.

2.       Trina, age 16 is our newest mentee.  After having gone missing from care and being exploited for several years, she is finally safe at home living with a grandparent. At her assessment, she opened up about her experiences for the first time and has been paired with one of our incredible Survivor Mentors. 

3.       Maria, age 20, is completing her basic training for the U.S. Army Reserves. We are so proud to see her working to achieve her goals.

4.       Since getting out of DYS last month, Jose, age 15, is making great progress in his recovery staying clean and sober, joined ROTC at his new school, and is a peer leader in his local juvenile probation department.

5.       This fall, Laura, age 19, moved into her own apartment. With the help of a generous donor and support of her mentor and case management team, she was able to fully furnish it to make it feel like home. She also started her degree in Criminology at Bunker Hill Community College and is working at her full time job as a security guard. We can’t wait to see what she does next.  

 

From all of us at My Life My Choice, thank you for your support. We wish you and your loved ones a happy and peaceful Thanksgiving.

A Reason to Hope

A Reason to Hope

While the last two weeks have battered us heart and soul, we have seen what it looks like when survivors like Janae are truly heard and we have witnessed the powerful mobilization for change when they are not. We believe Dr. Ford and thank her for her courage and for bringing the voices of survivors to the forefront. Our voices are getting louder. Our voices are being heard. We have every reason to work harder. We have every reason to fight. And we have every reason to hope.

The Streets Don't Love You

The Streets Don't Love You

Many of the My Life My Choice girls in our Leadership Corps Program understand the impetus and experience of running away from a personal perspective, and the campaign is an attempt to bring their authentic voice to the issue, for youth by youth.  

This resulting poster, aptly named “The Streets Don’t Love You,” will have an impact on vulnerable girls statewide. As many of the My Life My Choice girls understand the impetus and experience of running away from a personal perspective, their authentic voice will shine through.  

 

My Boys: Susan Reflects On Her New Experiences

My Boys: Susan Reflects On Her New Experiences

After many years of serving exclusively girls, My Life My Choice recognized a need to begin serving boys and trans youth, ages 12 to 18. The expertise we gained working with commercially sexually exploited girls for the past fourteen years, though somewhat different, applies to this underserved population as well. We were fortunate to already have Susan Alves onboard as a survivor mentor. Susan previously worked with men overcoming addiction, so we knew her skills made her the perfect fit for this pilot program.

The Streets Of Denver in a New Light

The Streets Of Denver in a New Light

When I boarded a plane to Denver last March, I did so as a leader and an expert in the commercial sexual exploitation of children. When I last left Denver, I was a very different person. I had been introduced to the city by a violent pimp after driving across the country with him, and being forced to work at countless strip clubs along the way. I had left, feeling worthless, after a particularly violent beating by my pimp spurred me to purchase a one-way ticket to Boston and never look back. I knew that I had to leave to save my life.

Transforming from Survivors to Leaders

Transforming from Survivors to Leaders

Twice a week, for ten weeks each summer, the My Life My Choice office is abuzz with our annual Summer Leadership Corps. This summer of 2015 was no exception. Five young leaders from My Life My Choice participated in the program which included activities ranging from meeting with Congressman Joseph Kennedy III and Ambassador Swanee Hunt, to making vision boards and a crash course in spinning at Soul Cycle. The idea of this program is to teach our girls important job skills – communications skills, teamwork, appropriate dress – while also teaching them how to take care of their whole selves and to build positive relationships with other girls. Their takeaways from the program are as diverse as they are …

I am More Than a Survivor

I am More Than a Survivor

My Life My Choice was honored to bring the More Than a Survivor photo exhibit to Boston’s City Hall from October 7 to October 16, 2015, and was so grateful to the Mayor's Office for hosting. On October 7th, we held a celebratory opening night that brought together city officials, community leaders, and like-minded supporters to honor the strength and resilience of the women photographed in the exhibit. Featuring stunning portraits of twenty-two women (including our Associate Director, Audrey Morrissey) who are all leaders in the arts, politics, science, nonprofits and more, the exhibition showcases the leadership of survivors in their communities.

Are You Listening, Amnesty? #NoAmnesty4Pimps

Are You Listening, Amnesty? #NoAmnesty4Pimps

As I write this blog post, two of our girls, Mara and Nisa, are missing. Both fifteen, they were referred to us when they were found to have been sold on Backpage.com. Grown men had bought them like commodities —for pleasure, for the rush, to do harm. A trafficker had lured them, coerced them, manipulated them, until they believed he was their family and would do anything for him. Though recovered by law enforcement and having just initiated services with us, they are gone again. It is likely that right now someone is abusing these two middle schoolers—degrading them, demeaning them, and hurting them.

Congressman Kennedy Meets Young Leaders of My Life My Choice

Congressman Kennedy Meets Young Leaders of My Life My Choice

One of the most important parts of my job as a federal representative is understanding how the policy we craft in Washington shapes the lives of people back home. Earlier this year, Congress passed an important piece of legislation called the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act (or JVTA) which will help hold offenders accountable, provide funding for prevention and education, and establish a Domestic Trafficking Victims’ Fund supported by the fines collected from traffickers.

Is the Media Hiding the Truth?

Is the Media Hiding the Truth?

I frequently find myself wondering, how is it possible that people are so misinformed about the realities of domestic sex trafficking in the United States? The answer lies in the media representation of this issue. The mainstream media is inundated with misleading language, like ‘teen prostitute,’ and false realities. The mass media capitalist culture that we live in today allows the media to distort, censor and sensationalize the truth in hopes of earning a greater profit.

"Exploitation Does Not Discriminate"

"Exploitation Does Not Discriminate"

A straight-A student from a “good home”, there was no way I should have been exploited. My stepdad and I got into a fight and he threw me out of the house. Throwing me out of the house was like throwing me to a pack of wolves. I’d been sheltered all my life and I thought everyone had my best interest at heart; now looking back, I see their ulterior motives.

Our Film Debut

Our Film Debut

This is an incredibly exciting time at My Life My Choice and in the movement to end the commercial sexual exploitation of children. My Life My Choice and the often unspoken epidemic of sex trafficking are featured in a new documentary airing on PBS next week. As a follow up to the powerful documentary series Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, the new film, A Path Appears, follows reporters Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn and actor/advocates to Colombia, Haiti, Kenya, and throughout the United States as they uncover the harshest forms of gender-based oppression and human rights violations, as well as the effective solutions being implemented to combat them.