A new mural covers the wall by the Student Help Desk in the E Hallway on the second floor. The mural was created by Sarah Kiyak’s Block Two senior English class to bring awareness and raise money for sex trafficking prevention. The mural is surrounded by student handprints and includes a quote from Elie Wiesel: “Let us remember: what hurts the victim most is not the cruelty of the oppressor, but the silence of the bystander.” The handprints were purchased for three dollars and the proceeds were sent to Courtney’s House, an organization committed to the prevention of sex trafficking in the D.C. area.
The students’ experience with the book, Sold, by Patricia McCormack, inspired them to create the mural. McCormack’s Sold chronicles the life of a young girl sold into the sex trafficking industry. The book inspired the students to take a stand against human trafficking.
Erin Neff, Assistant Project Manager of Courtney’s House recently visited Kiyak’s class and spoke to the students about the charity and sex trafficking. Courtney’s House was founded by Tina Frundt, a sex trafficking victim and T.C. graduate. Courtney’s House is named after Frundt’s oldest daughter, and allows victims to say they are just, “going to Courtney’s House,” said Neff.
Sex trafficking occurs when older men or women coerce, force or deceive minors into performing commercial sex acts for money. This process is commonly known as prostitution or “pimping.” The “pimps” involved in sex trafficking force young women, men and transgender people into prostitution often by raping and beating them into submission. These victims become known as “hookers” or “sluts.”
“The girl becomes nothing more than a ho,” said Neff.
Courtney’s House helps girls, boys and transgender minors to overcome the process of “pimping.” It also provides services for adults on an emergency basis. The charity, located in Washington D.C., provides case management, counseling, group therapy, medical treatment, food, clothing and toiletries to victims of sex trafficking. Courtney’s House also helps provides a support group and helps victims acquire their GEDs or find lawyers. There is a street outreach program where volunteers go to high trafficked areas of D.C. and provide emergency information. There is also a 24 hour survivor hotline open seven days a week (1-888-261-3665.)
As Kiyak’s students read about sex trafficking, they were appalled by what they discovered. Human trafficking is the fastest growing criminal industry according to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC.)
“The adults involved in sex trafficking are disgusting, immoral human beings who attempt to destroy innocent children’s lives,” said Kiyak.
While illegal in the United States, the laws against sex trafficking are dormant and not as effective when prosecuting the offenders. While the law attempts to catch up with the growing rates of sex trafficking victims, many organizations have begun providing important services to help victims overcome their abuse.
Safe houses, community centers, free clinics, domestic abuse hotlines and the police have worked to provide victims with the resources they need to “get out of the life.” Social services, prosecution of “pimps” and healthcare services are provided to victims.
“We have worked with T.C. kids who have been trafficked. This is something that’s happening in your backyard,” said Neff.
Neff discussed the importance of sex trafficking awareness in the community with Kiyak’s class. Neff said that the media has desensitized the issue of sex trafficking by turning it into something cool.
“A pimp is something cool [in our society],” said Neff.
Songs such as P.I.M.P by rapper 50 cent have glorified the sex trade. MTV has also popularized the act of “hooking” or “gold-digging,” all common occurrences in the sex trafficking industry.
“That song [P.I.M.P] is about child abuse, is about rape and is about sex trafficking,” said Neff.
Neff continued to ask the students what they believed defined a pimp. The students stated that a pimp was a man who could “get” any girl he wanted. These girls were then classified as a hooker, a hoe or a slut. Neff then urged the students to reexamine their view of the word “pimp.” She said that is was okay 50 years ago to call someone the N word, but now it is offensive. Neff told students that the same thing needs to happen to the word pimp.
“[People think] a pimp is something cool. A pimp is a pedophile and a pimp is a child abuser. No one can justify being a pedophile,” said Neff.
For more information about sex trafficking visit: http://www.polarisproject.org/, and for additional information about the non-profit organization Courtney’s House, visit: http://www.courtneyshouse.org/
Emma Beall also contributed to this article.