Weatherford Democrat

August 4, 2013

A Triumph against trafficking

Millsap to help meet needs of new safe house for victims of human trafficking


Weatherford Democrat

— By CLINT FOSTER | Lone Star News Group

MILLSAP – Does slavery still exist in the United States?

The common response would be, “no.” President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation before the end of the Civil War in 1863, effectively ending all forms of legal slavery in the U.S. But modern slavery is very much alive and takes a far different form than it did on Antebellum plantations in the American South.

According to Traffick 911’s website, traffick911.com, a faith-based non-profit organization driven to stop sex slavery in the U.S., between 100,000 and 300,000 American children are forced into sexual slavery each year. These children, whose average age is 12-13, often suffer for an average of seven years before they die from a variety of causes. It is an industry that generates a staggering $32 billion annually – more than Starbuck’s, Nike and Google combined.

Texas is at the forefront of the problem. The Department of Justice designated Interstate 10 – one-third of which runs through Texas including Houston, San Antonio and El Paso – as the No. 1 route for human trafficking in the U.S. Statistics show that one out of every three children who become homeless, either as runaways or for any number of reasons, are sold into sexual slavery within just 48 hours of being on the street.

The town of Millsap is doing its part to help with the solution.

Millsap First Baptist Church will host a housewarming for Triumph House – an upcoming, regional Traffick911 safe house for victims of human trafficking – at the Millsap Community Center Aug. 10, from 10 a.m. to noon. The event has garnered many sponsors including the City of Millsap, Millsap Volunteer Fire Department and Joy’s Shear Creations. The public is encouraged to attend and bring either monetary donations or items the new safe house will need.

Sexual slavery/human trafficking is a serious problem and organizations like Traffick 911 are working tirelessly to create change through a method of “prevention, rescue and restoration.”

Traffick 911 was founded in 2009.

“We have an amazing partnership with lots of great law enforcements all over Texas that we work with on a lot of victims and cases,”  Traffick 911 Director of Development and Communications Lindsey Speed said. “We’ll be working with them once we begin to accept victims into the home. We’re also working to be accredited by the Abolition International Safehome Association. Basically there’s a lot of people out there wanting to build safe homes for these victims to go [but] there’s not a lot of resources as far as best practices, so that’s why we’re teaming up with experts in a lot of the different care needs.”

Speed said Triumph House’s goal is to minister to victims ages 10 to 17. After each girl stays at the house, Speed said they will offer a plethora of resources to help them take the next step in their recovery process. They will be in connection with other adult safe houses to fit a victim’s needs or, if a girl is ready to leave, Triumph House will offer ways to help each girl find a good job.

Triumph House is not ready to hit the ground running. Speed said there are a number of items the safe house will need to function properly and as a non-profit, Traffick 911 depends on donations for these items.

Area volunteer coordinator for Traffick 911 and member of Millsap First Baptist Mary Elliott organized the housewarming. As a worker in her church’s girls’ ministry, human trafficking is an issue that has been close to her heart ever since she first learned about it.

“It just broke my heart and I began to look into it,” she said. “We have a missions-focused ministry with young girls at our church and that’s really how it got started for us. A lot of people in our congregation had their hearts broken over this and they have just really taken this up as a cause to help Traffick 911 be able to rescue and restore these girls.”

Traffick911.com has more information about the organization and Triumph House including a list of items the safe house will need to get on its feet. Those interested in donating can use Triumph House’s registries with Target and Bed, Bath and Beyond as a resource for buying much needed items as well.

“Communities and individuals everywhere have been able to hop on board as far as getting it open,” Speed said of Triumph House. “Anything as small as three dollars to a riding lawn mower for the property. It’s a really cool way that so many people can get involved.”