Sex Trafficking: Learning More with the OPTIONS Alumnae Book Club
By Lindsey Rabinowitch
OPTIONS Alumna, Class 7
It is hard to believe that sex trafficking exists right here in our own community . . . in our own backyards. It is even more difficult to face the fact that young girls at age 11, girls that could be our daughters or nieces, fall victim to child prostitution. On June 7, OPTIONS Alumnae women met with Mary Jo Lee from Alternatives Inc., an emergency shelter for domestic violence victims, to address these issues and explore the themes in Renting Lacy, the recent book which describes the atrocities done to prostituted children.
My first thought while reading Renting Lacy was shock and horror. The author, Linda Smith, uses fictional characters and events to illustrate the very real situation for hundreds of thousands of children who are taken from their homes and trafficked every year. Most shocking were the details about what these children are forced to endure for fear of their pimp. Smith writes that they are “beaten, tortured, forced to eat feces, dehumanized by taunts and arrested dozen times." These women are manipulated and taught to believe that they are loved and cared for when really they are just being used to benefit the pimp.
The question I kept asking myself is why don’t these girls leave? And then the author made it clear. The young girls, who fall victim to child trafficking, grow up in an environment where verbal, physical or sexual abuse is the norm. Appalling to think about and more complicated to understand, but these girls often don’t know that they are being abused. Their understanding of the how the world works is fatally flawed.
As a mother of two small boys, in my view my job is to fiercely protect, love, and encourage my children. Unfortunately, these young women who fall victim do not have parents that feel the same way. This leaves these kids searching for security, love, acceptance, and a confirmation of self worth. Their vulnerability leaves them open for exploitation. “According to the FBI, one in four females and one in eight males will be sexually abused before the age of 18 – a disturbing statistic which means that the pond for pimps to fish in is quite large.”
I was grateful that Mary Jo was with us during our conversation to provide valuable information about what Alternatives, Inc. is doing to care for victims of sex trafficking. Her real life examples of how the families arrived at the various shelters were heart-wrenching. Yet she provided powerful details of how her organization is helping families move forward and break the cycle. Alternatives Inc. has fabulous facilities that serve six counties. They assist victims with everyday needs, education, job training and child care. Their organization believes that while it might take a “village to raise a family”, when domestic violence is the issue, it takes a network to save a family.
Notwithstanding the incredibly positive impact of Alternatives Inc., I left our meeting with deep concerns. Why is our community not taking more action to stop child sex slavery in Indianapolis? How do we start taking preventative measures to try and decrease the demand? And what organizations are fighting against this injustice? I felt good about the efforts Women’s Fund is doing to work on preventive measures and investing in programming to give women and girls self-confidence and hope for a better life, although it is not enough. We all need to educate ourselves about what is happening in our community so that we can recognize high risk situations and address sex trafficking in a meaningful way. It can start in our own homes. Even the average child needs seven adults that they can trust and who believe in them! So one of the best things we can do right now, is to give our children a hug and continually let them know our unconditional love. Well, that is the very least I plan to do.
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