The numbers are staggering right here in our own backyard. Few causes of human misery are less understood and less acknowledged than the Human Trafficking that supplies the sex trade right here in our communities. One REBSEA member, DeLain Climmons, is determined to do something about it in her community of Greater Atlanta, where 300 young women each month are coerced and forced into the sex trade. DeLain is a Realtor and the Founder of L.A.U.G.H. House, Inc., a nonprofit organization that supplies an alternative and needed support for young women escaping this diabolical circumstance. To fully understand the pernicious nature of this form of slavery and how so many come to be trapped, DeLain has written a short story exclusively for REBSEA supporters that serves as an example of how Human Trafficking flourishes right under our noses. Please read this short story that also includes what her organization is doing to help these victims and how you can help DeLain’s crusade by becoming more aware of this horrible reality and perhaps consider L.A.U.G.H. House the next time you are considering a donation to a Nonprofit Organization.
Ice Cream and Sex
L.A.U.G.H. House, Inc
Throughout the day I was thinking about getting a strawberry cheesecake sundae at the Dairy Queen down the street from my middle school. I tried to stay focused, but with summer vacation less than a month away, it was hard. Besides, I hated math class. The sound of the bell ringing was music to my ears. I grabbed my flowered book bag and rushed towards the door past dozens of my seventh grade classmates. I waved to them as they crowded on the old yellow school bus. I felt a sense of independence as I walked down the hill and crossed the busy street. I could taste the cold sweetness of the ice cream and hear the crunch of the waffle cone. There was a mom and two small children and four college age looking kids in front of me. “Hey, pretty girl!” I heard it again, “Hey, pretty girl! I love those pink jeans!” I turned to see a boy – maybe a man – sitting in a shiny black car. It was so shiny I could see my reflection. “Come here pretty!” he said. “Uh, you talking to me?” I asked. “You the prettiest little thang in line. Yeah, baby girl. I’m talking to you. What’s yo’name?” he asked.
Carlos was 35 years old, but didn’t look much older than the guys on my sister’s high school basketball team. Looking back, I wonder if he cast a spell on me or if I was drugged? Maybe I was so thrilled to hear that I was pretty. He called me baby. It was the first time a man, including my father, ever smiled and said something nice to me. He took me to McDonald’s and bought me a burger, fries AND a medium ice cream cone. He dropped me off down the street from my house so no one in my family would see me getting out of the car.
By the end of summer, I had run away from home to be with Carlos, the love of my life! He and I moved into a tiny apartment downtown. The place was like something I’ve never seen. The building was old and smelled like pee. There was trash everywhere. Inside was just as bad. There wasn’t any furniture worth mentioning. No family pictures. No curtains. No flowers. I missed the fresh smell of mom’s laundry. There was a small table in the dining room and nothing in the living room, except some milk cartons that he and some of his friends sat on and smoked pot. He let me try it one night. I was scared. I remember my health teacher saying that marijuana was a gateway drug. I inhaled and watched as the tip of the joint turned fire red. It was awful! It smelled and tasted like what I imagine burnt leaves would taste like. I was sick to my stomach. My throat was on fire. It’s been two months since I’ve seen anyone in my family. I miss them. I want to go home. I can’t talk about this with Carlos. The last time I asked if I could go visit he slapped me so hard my ears were ringing for several hours. He apologized. I forgave him.
One night, while we were watching television in bed, I saw my picture flash across the evening news. The authorities were looking for me! Carlos saw it too. Immediately, he tossed our clothes into a suitcase, grabbed a couple cans of Coke and the half empty bag of chips and we left Atlanta for New York. “New York? I’ve never been to New York!” I screeched with excitement. “Oh, you’ll love it! I promise! Wait until you see all the bright lights! Lots of people! You’re going to do great!” he said.
We drove all night, stopping only for gas and to use the bathroom. I woke up, “Where are we?” I asked. You in Jamaica Queens baby girl. “Jamaica? I thought you said we were going to New York! How we get to Jamaica without getting on a boat?” Carlos smiled revealing his beautiful white teeth that looked like Ivory, “Baby girl, you got a lot to learn. This is New York. The section just called “Jamaica Queens.” I fell asleep, but woke up again when I heard laughing and screaming. As we parked a bunch of girls ran towards the car shouting, “Daddy! Daddy! We missed you daddy!” I thought, “Why are they calling Carlos daddy? I know he is not the father of ALL of these girls because they are all about the same age and none of them are twins! “Get out the car and come and meet your sisters,” he said.
I call them, “The Wasted Years.” I can’t look at it any other way. Between 14 ½ and 25 years of age, I had sex with about 20 men per night, six days per week. During big sporting events, like the Super Bowl, my sisters and I would work around the clock. I lost count that day when I reached 70. Carlos gave us the next day off and took us to Red Lobster for a special celebration dinner. I don’t know how much the 12 of us made, but it must have been a lot because we were allowed to order whatever we wanted, including dessert!
I dipped my crab legs in garlic butter and glanced across the room. I saw a man, a pregnant woman, who was probably his wife and two kids. They bowed their heads and prayed before beginning to eat. My dad, even with his imperfections, always blessed the food before we ate. Seeing that family and thinking about my mom, dad and sibling, made it hard to enjoy the celebration dinner. No one knew, but I made up my mind I would leave New York and go back to Atlanta. How? Where? Who could I trust?
I had seen firsthand how brutal Carlos behaves when one of the sisters tried to leave. Marissa was beaten with a water hose and forced to eat feces. She couldn’t walk for two weeks. We all thought Dominique was dead after Carlos held her head down in a tub filled with water. Then he beat her for hours with an extension cord. I still have nightmares thinking about the deep holes in her skin where the plug punctured every inch of her frail body.
I was working my regular shift, 7 p.m. to 4 p.m., when I came up with a plan. I waved down an older model Buick. The driver, an old white man about 70, seemed thrilled when I told him I was running a special and he could get “around the world” for $60. I hopped in and motioned for him to turn the corner. He parked next to a vacant industrial type building. “Honey, let me come on your side,” I said. “Sure. Sure.” I exited the passenger side, wrapped a scarf around my hand and walked around to the driver’s door. He opened it and looked up showing his yellow dentures. “If you move I’ll blow your f***ing head off! Get your ass out of the car! NOW!” He was shaking, “Please don’t kill me! Please! I have grandkids!” I could hear piss spelling on the ground. “Run, run!” He took off hobbling towards the corner. I took off my wig and tied the multi-colored scarf around my head. I tossed my fake gun -- the tiny piece of steel – onto the passenger seat.
I was shaking as I pulled into the Greyhound lot at the bus station. I could barely speak when the agent at the ticket counter asked me where I was going, “Uh. A—A—Atlanta. I need a one way ticket to Atlanta please,” I said. I didn’t get off the bus from New York to Atlanta. I was terrified. I knew Carlos was looking for me. I was so paranoid every time someone looked at me. Once a man stared at me then made a call on his cell phone. I thought my heart would burst. Does he recognize me? Is it phoning Carlos?
I couldn’t go home because that would be the first place Carolos would look. I slept in Woodruff Park and blended in with hundreds of homeless people. Even though there were drug addicts, schizophrenic cursing at the bushes, derelicts you could smell 20 feet away; I felt a tinge of relief.
It’s was the most beautiful sunrise ever! I was sitting on the steps of the Presbyterian Church at six in the morning. Every black car that drove past sent chills up my spine. Was that Carlos? I was going insane. Finally, around 9 a.m. a white lady with a kind face and silky gray hair unlocked the door. I told her my story. Hours later, I was taken to a safe house. I was given a welcome basket, a change of clothes, a small bag of toiletries and a stuffed red teddy bear I named, “Destiny.”
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigations some 300 girls in the Atlanta metro area are lured into the sex trade each month. LAUGH HOUSE INCORPORATED”, a nonprofit
501(c )(3) organization will provide a nurturing and safe long term residential housing for young women who are homeless due to emancipation from the foster care system, who are escaping commercial sex trafficking or those who are homeless due to socio-economic challenges and family dysfunction.
Most of us are incapable of comprehending what it means to be the victim of “human trafficking.” So exactly what is it and why is there a need for LAUGH HOUSE INCORPORATED? The main populations of trafficking victims in the U.S. include the following:
· According to the U.S. State Department the average age of children exploited is 14. However, some as young as 10 and 11 have been reported victims.
· Adults age 18 or over involved in commercial sex via force, fraud, or coercion;
· Children and adults forced to perform labor and/or services in conditions of involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery, via force, fraud, or coercion.
· Victims are trafficked for a wide variety of purposes, such as commercial sex, agricultural work, or housekeeping, yet they all share the loss of one of our world’s most cherished rights—freedom.
· Trafficked persons can be rich or poor, men or women, adults or children, and foreign nationals or US citizens.
· There is no one consistent face of a trafficker. Traffickers include a wide range of criminal operators, including individual pimps, small families or businesses, loose-knit decentralized criminal networks, and international organized criminal syndicates.
A 14 page study by the Shapiro Group, a consulting firm in Atlanta, debunks the myth that CSEC is a problem limited to the urban core and paints a clear picture of the adult men who exploit adolescent females by paying for sex with them. The study involved an innovative survey methodology that yielded 218 completed useable surveys over a two month period in the fall of 2009. Here are some of the findings:
· Men who respond to advertisements for sex with young females come from all over metro Atlanta.
· 42 percent of the “Johns”, men who purchased sex with young females, come from outside I-285, which includes Cobb, Douglas and Paulding counties
· Almost half of the men are 30-39, with the next largest group being men under age 30. The mean age is 33 and the median 31. The youngest survey participant was 18 and the oldest was 67.
· Not only are 65% of men who buy sex with young females doing so in and around suburban metro Atlanta, but 9% of men who buy sex with young females in metro Atlanta gave their location as near the airport. This finding is consistent with advocates’ claims that travel and tourism plan a major role in sustaining CSEC.
· 12,400 men each month in Georgia pay for sex with a young female, 7,200 of who end up exploiting an adolescent female.
· On average in Georgia, 100 adolescent females are sexually exploited each night.
· These men account for 8,700 paid sex acts with adolescent females each month, which means that each adolescent female is exploited an average of 3 times per day.
· Over 700,000 men have bought sex with females in Georgia, including both “young” and “not young” females. With approximately 3 million adult men in Georgia, this study finds that 23% have purchased sex with females, and 20,700 men do so in any given month.
· 90 percent of runaway girls become part of the sex trade to survive
· 70 to 90 percent of commercially sexually exploited children have a history of childhood sexual abuse.
The primary goal of LAUGH HOUSE INCORPORATED is to provide a safe alternative for homeless girls from the metro Atlanta area. To reach DeLain please email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
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