Take a Second Look

We're serving more and more survivors and as I see the years long path to recovery for each, I think about the young people that traffickers will target next. About how much better it would be to save one person from falling prey to their tricks and traps than trying to pick up the pieces on the other side.  

I'm thinking of the 17 year old I met this week who so longs for love and acceptance, she still thinks her pimp is her boyfriend and that he loves her. So desperate for acceptance, she can't see- yet- what a warped type of 'love' it would be to sell her repeatedly to others to be raped. To take the money earned by the acts. To alternate beatings with sweet talk, promises with exploitation. The trap was simple :"I love you. Do this and we'll buy a house and live happily ever after." Not. Going. To. Happen. Just glad she is out now; because the average life expectancy once trafficked is only 7 years. 

I'm thinking of the 26 year old with a baby. She is trying so hard, taking classes to get her GED. Taking job training and looking for work. Wanting a better life for her child. But what a hard thing it is to get a job when you have a criminal record. When your frustration and trust levels are so low from the trauma you've endured. When homelessness is breathing down your back.

I'm thinking of another young woman who was raped as a child and told by her mother that it was her fault. Who has been used ever since. Brainwashed into thinking she is just a slut. That she has no other role in life than to fulfill the sick desires of men who buy kids. 

If you are thinking of running away because life at home stinks- DON'T. There are other options and people who want to help. What you run to may well be even worse than what you run from.

If you think cute clothes and nice things are the path to happiness, please-- think again. Traffickers smell those vulnerabilities and will wine and dine you and promise you the moon. For a while.

If you're looking for love in all the wrong places, ignoring your instincts and the cautions of others- please stop and think. A few years from now, do you really want to be a worn out, used up, old-before-her-years woman, tossed out for the next gullible young thing that comes along? Or dead from STDs, neglected health issues, malnutrition or violence? Real love doesn't exploit. 

I wish I could introduce you to some of the girls and women I meet who fell for the traps. They'd tell you the same thing - in stronger words. 

You are important. You deserve more. 

With love,

Derri

Up Close and Personal

I've spent a couple of days this week caring for the needs of two young US human trafficking victims kidnapped in Atlanta and brought to Nashville, in an ordeal that lasted from Tuesday of last week until Friday. It all began when one of the girls thought she was talking to a friend online. She learned too late that it was actually a trafficker. She and her BFF went to hang out with this on-line girlfriend, and instead ended up in a car with child safety locks; the beginning of their nightmare.

I heard these beautiful, intelligent, articulate girls tell their heartbreaking story, up close and personal. I sat in court and admired their incredible courage as they testified, so soon after their trauma, with their alleged perpetrator in the room...the one who threatened to kill them and their families, who beat them, put duct tape over one girl's mouth and bound her hands and pummeled her face, evidence of which was still present in a black eye, and who forced them both to be raped. The one who knows where they live.  

The time fueled my passion to empower you, the young people targeted by these predators, to prevent your own victimization and to look out for your peers. You and your friends deserve so much better treatment than what these girls endured and will live with the rest of their lives. Please – be the jam.

Welcome to BETHEJAM.org!

Welcome to Be The Jam! – a movement to empower America’s youth to protect themselves and their peers from human traffickers. Check out the videos showing the five most common tactics used by traffickers to lure young victims – then share with your friends. Be the jam. Stop human trafficking.

Be the Jam was unveiled recently at the Trafficking in America Conference in Nashville, Tennessee by Derri Smith, Director of End Slavery Tennessee, who created the Be The Jam movement. The presentation was voted as one of the top five for the conference.