On April 11th, President Trump, signed a bill, which then became a law, enforcing SESTA/FOSTA (Stop Enabling Sex Trafficking Act/Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act).
On April 6th, the below notice was posted on backpage.com. It sparked a variety of responses from the anti-trafficking and sex for sale communities.
For the pro responses, it signaled a major victory in which survivors of sexual exploitation and trafficking united efforts with anti-trafficking agencies to hold accountable website owners that knowingly aid and abet illegal prostitution. It means that not only are they exposed as criminals to the public, but it enables victims /survivors to sue the websites for compensation for exploitation. Human trafficking, while I don’t think it will ever be eradicated due to demand and vulnerable people in this day and age, can be fought by taking on the links of the chain that contribute to it. Laws that defend victims and support holding entities accountable that knowingly are connected to and profiting from human trafficking are needed to fight this modern day slavery.
In 16 years of ministry working with victims (those who are in need of being removed from abusive situations and/or provided an effective intervention,) survivors (those who have been removed from sexual exploitation), and overcomers (who have risen above the injustices done to them), I’ve never seen the unity this bill, now law, produced in this populace, coupled with the support of outside advocates. In my opinion, it’s a win/win, regardless of your perspective.
However, just as it was with finding out about venues such as backpage.com, craigslist, etc., it doesn’t take much effort to discover online:
1) an enormous amount of blatant advertising for illegal activities … prostitution, “escort”, “companion” services … online, and
2) where this illegal community is going to go following the shut down, either by the government or voluntarily, of sites that knowingly support these industries.
One of the main arguments against SESTA/FOSTA by those actively engaged in this industry is that the online venues, some now closed, provided a level of vetting for them as to whether or not prospective “johns” were safe. I get it, however, I will challenge this mind set with the argument that if what you were doing was legal, healthy, and empowering to you, you wouldn’t need to screen for safety. Finding another online resource to vet for safety is only a few clicks away for you, johns, law enforcement and advocates. Although I would debate as to whether your choice to engage in illegal activities could ever really be safe at all. And to those reading this blog that might say, well in Nevada it’s legal, that is only true for a few counties.
While I get that persons may try to argue the legitimacy of their choice to work in this industry, I counter with the fact that it’s illegal. Blaming advocates, survivors, overcomers, and the general public that have united to defend and protect YOU, is
1) blame shifting,
2) evidence that you’re in denial of how dangerous selling yourself for sex is (although this is the argument most present for why it should be made legal … an oxymoron, by all means),
3) proof that you need to seriously consider another profession.
Fact is that we, as in overcomers, advocates, and now legislators, and even our President and current administration, are aware of how horrible the conditions can be of this chosen or forced profession. Whether or not you want to admit to being a victim of trafficking, the fact is that you’re being exploited for your body every time you exchange it for money, a shopping spree, a place to stay, food, etc. Truth is, that even though it’s considered the “world’s oldest profession”, it’s dehumanizing, dangerous, and traumatic and you deserve better.
You shouldn’t have to subject yourself to that kind of abuse. And please, don’t attempt say that you aren’t abused. I know personally; the very first night I chose to work in the sex for sale industry, I experienced verbal, mental, emotional, and physical abuse. Matter of fact, this occurred every time I worked and you’ll never convince me that it’s not happening to you. No one deserves to live this way and there are countless organizations and agencies nation- and world-wide now that exist to help you transition out of this lifestyle, IF you want out. We’re not going to force you to do anything, unlike the johns you encounter and attempt to vet for your safety. Most of us exist because we know firsthand of the hopelessness, addiction, and woundedness the multi-billion dollar industry of sex for sale inflicts on those who are treated as a commodity, an object used for another’s pleasure or sick perversions.
With the passing of the FOSTA/SESTA (Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act; Stop Enabling Sex Trafficking Act), IT ENABLES YOU, to make a change. It gives you the opportunity to transition out of the lifestyle into another profession. It’s inevitable that you either need to because of age, trauma, disease or safety, or that you should because of the same. What we know, is that with a healthy support system, people can literally overcome ANYTHING. Why not take advantage of a time in history that society in general is compassionate to the vulnerabilities that led/lured you into the sex for sale industry? Society is finally wanting to help individuals, who for whatever reason are in the profession, to transition out. Embrace the opportunity. Reach out for help, if you want it. For those of you that don’t want it, stay in it, but please, always remember there are resources and people that will support you in transitioning out and a recovery process for the trauma you endure.
Either way you look at it, in my opinion, FOSTA/SESTA is a good thing. It’s not only shedding light on a dark industry that is fed by our sex saturated society, that has normalized a rape culture, but it’s providing recourse, vindication, and assistance to those who have been or currently are victims of sexual abuse, exploitation, and trafficking. Who for far too long have been regarded as worthless, criminal and invisible to our polite society, rather than precious individuals, made in God’s image, with the potential to be so much more.
I’ll close with this quote from Marian Hatcher,
“Screening for potentially violent sex buyers and assurances of safe places do not exist in prostitution. Our primary objective must be to end exploitation and prevent the harm that is inherent to those in the sex trade. While there may be some who are prostituted by choice, for the vast majority it is a lack of choices that drives them into the sex trade – a trade that is violent whether it is indoors or outdoors. We can’t prioritize that “choice” over the exploitation of vulnerable people.”
and a quote from Psalm 82:34 (The Passion Translation),
“Defend the defenseless, the fatherless and the forgotten, the disenfranchised and the destitute.
Your duty is to deliver the poor and the powerless; liberate them from the grasp of the wicked.”
Selah. Please (Stop and think about this).
National Transitional Resources
Below is a list of individuals and organizations I have personally worked with that I often make referrals to. It is not all inclusive of the organizations out there. As I mentioned in the blog, there are virtually countless now across the United States and around the world. A simple google for help in your area will likely bring up many. However, in my opinion, the below are generals of the sex industry / anti-trafficking assistance movement. They were helping victims and survivors before doing so became a movement and likely will continue to do so after others have moved on to the next popular social cause.
Major Leisa Hall: I had the privilege of working for Major Leisa for nearly 3 years. Together, and against enormous amounts of opposition, we developed and implemented The Salvation Army’s first Emergency Shelter for Trafficking Victims at The Salvation Army Tampa / Hillsborough County Area Command. She’s committed to assisting victims in the process of becoming overcomers and has access to a vast amount of resources through The Salvation Army. The Salvation Army is literally one of the very first organizations to establish a safe home for minor victims of sexual exploitation and trafficking in the mid 1800’s! She currently is the Area Commander of National Capital Area Command. If she cannot directly help you, she’ll refer you to persons that can and will.
Michelle Russell: Michelle and I have been friends for nearly 13 years. She heads up The Strip Church, a division of Fireproof Ministries, most famous for their XXX Church ministry. Although they do not engage in legislation, she has access to a large national network of persons trained to provide outREACH and afterCARE to workers in the sex industry. Again, if she cannot directly assist you, she’ll connect with persons in your area that can.
Ked Frank: I’ve collaborated with Ked since he became the Executive Director for Refuge for Women originally established in Kentucky; now a national network of AfterCARE for the Trafficked and Sexually Exploited. They have residential programs nationwide and are the real deal when it comes to providing comprehensive, integrated, best practice, faith based, restoration services. If he or his staff can’t assist you directly, they can help connect you to individuals in your area than can assist you.
This is the organization I started in 2002, in an effort to reach and restore victims of sexual abuse, exploitation, and trafficking. I got involved in the the industry when I was in college. I was finally able to successfully exit it after 7 years, 2 years after I acquired my Bachelors of Fine Arts degree. In 2013, in an effort to be more professionally trained to assist survivors in the process of becoming overcomers, I acquired a Master of Arts degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. Our services include:
Mental Health Counseling
Discipleship / Mentoring
Wellness Retreats at Eagle’s Landing Ranch
My email is firstname.lastname@example.org or you can call (239) 939-9218.