Child victims of sex trafficking come from all walks of life and vary in ethnicity and age, but they all have one thing in common—the stories of the abuse they’ve suffered are heartbreaking.
January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month—a time for our communities to come together and take action to end modern day slavery, and help those who’ve already been victimized.
The average age of a child sold into prostitution is just 14 years old. Girls are sometimes sold by their own family members, or lured into dangerous situations at parties or online. The average pimp makes more than $200,000 per child each year, and usually has between four and six girls.
When police bust a sex trafficking ring, these children have few places to get the support they need. Often they are placed in juvenile detention.
But Arrow provides a significantly better option: Freedom Place.
Freedom Place is one of the few residential treatment centers in the country for underage victims of sex trafficking. The 42-bed facility, located just outside of Houston, provides therapy, spiritual support, education from an accredited school on-site, money management and job training. Arrow’s goal is to provide them the tools to lead a healthy and productive life so they are no longer vulnerable to re-victimization and exploitation.
Freedom Place has served dozens of girls since its opening three years ago. The transformation in their lives has been amazing.
One resident recently described how she never thought she would graduate from high school, but the teachers at Freedom Place supported and encouraged her. Now, she has her diploma.
“As I walked on the stage and heard the graduation music and looked at everyone’s eyes tearing up, I started tearing up and became speechless,” she said. “Graduating meant the world to me, and now I’ve accomplished it.”
Another resident expressed her transformation through poetry. Her beautiful poem sums up exactly what Arrow wishes to provide for the girls at Freedom Place.
One of the stanzas reads “I lived most of my life in this scary dream-like state / But no longer is this the case / Because I finally woke up when I came to Freedom Place / So now I can rest for a little while / Because soon the world will get to see / The very best me that I can be / While I’ll get to live safe, live well and live free.”
We celebrate the transformations of the girls who have come to Freedom Place, but let’s not forget the more than 100,000 American children lured into the sex slave trade each year who don’t have the same opportunity. Far more resources to help them are still needed.
You can learn more about Freedom Place, human trafficking, and how you can help at www.arrow.org/freedom-place.