Update on Beauty for Ashes Fund

Dear Friend:                                                                                                              November 2015

One year ago we stepped out in faith to launch The Beauty for Ashes Fund at PLNU, and with it came groundswell support, national media attention and growing awareness of human trafficking. As one of the first donors, you are a critical part of this effort. Thank you for your generosity!

A scholarship for survivors of human trafficking, The Beauty for Ashes Fund is the first of its kind, and PLNU is forging new territory to offer hope and an education for survivors. We are so thrilled to announce the acceptance of our first recipient to the University! She plans to begin next semester, and it is because of you that this moment is even possible. Our multi-disciplinary team will welcome each student and offer the support needed to succeed, while protecting privacy. We are committed to our students’ choice about whether they share their stories publicly.

Over the past year we have been working with several survivors, guiding them through the process of application. From sex trafficking victims to survivors of labor trafficking, each person brings a dream with them to the process. One wants to pursue a law degree to defend the helpless, one to pursue a career in nursing, another to be a minister.

There is a common theme – resilience. Refusing to let their pasts define their futures, they are building their dreams from the ground up. They are already leaders, some of them advocating on the front lines as influential local and national advocates for other victims. The tenacity in applicants gives us hope, too.

This next season is about building The Beauty for Ashes Fund for the future. We are closing in on $100,000 given to the Fund. While this is an incredible testimony to the generosity of our early donors, to sustain the Fund long term it must grow.

As human trafficking continues to dominate the headlines, PLNU’s Center for Justice & Reconciliation is in the middle of the work, providing leadership in research and community organizing, as well as stewarding the growth of The Beauty for Ashes Fund

We want to thank you for standing with us in the early days. We are asking you to consider partnering with us again to help grow the Fund. Your one-time or repeating gift can be made online at http://pointloma.edu/beautyforashes or with the enclosed donation envelope.

If you’d like to talk to us about how to get more involved in the work, please reach out. Thank you for being a part of making this dream a reality.

James F Gates 1

 

 

 

Jamie Gates, M.Div., Ph.D.

Director, Center for Justice & Reconciliation

Executive Summary of the Human Trafficking Study

Read the new Updated Executive Summary here

Read the Full Technical Report here

See the PowerPoint presentation here

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The groundbreaking study, “Measuring the Nature and Extent of Gang Involvement in Sex Trafficking in San Diego”[1] focused narrowly on one of the most understudied aspects of human trafficking in the United States: the relationship of street gangs as facilitators of sex trafficking. Researchers gathered and analyzed data from hundreds of current and former gang affiliated individuals, schools, law enforcement agencies, and victim service providers. In all, data was collected from 1205 individuals, making it one of the largest, most comprehensive human trafficking case studies in the United States to date: 156 gang affiliated persons and/or traffickers, 702 first-time prostitution offenders, 189 survivors from eight victim services programs, and 140 County School administrators and staff. The study is a large-scale model of collaborative research to impact policy and practice, and serves as a national model for future research on human trafficking more broadly. Click HERE for the full Executive Summary.

KEY FINDINGS

  • Sex trafficking is San Diego’s 2nd largest underground economy after drug trafficking. The underground sex economy represents an estimated $810 million in annual revenue
  • Our methodology has produced San Diego County’s first credible estimate of sex trafficking victims/survivors per year: 3,417-8,108. It is estimated that law enforcement only arrests 15-20% of the persons committing trafficking offenses.
  • At least 110 gangs are involved in commercial exploitation of people (CSEP). 80% of pimps/sex trafficking facilitators interviewed were gang involved
  • Pimps/sex trafficking facilitators are not primarily African American. Our sample of traffickers in prison contained roughly an equal number of white, black and Hispanic facilitators
  • 16 years old is the average age of entry into child commercial sexual exploitation (CSEC)
  • Sex trafficking facilitators control 4.5 victim/survivors on average
  • 42% of first-time prostitution arrests are in fact cases involving sex trafficking
  • Domestic trafficking accounts for the majority of CSEP
  • Transborder criminal networks are involved in trafficking minors and adults between Mexico and the United States. 20% of trafficking victims referred to service providers come from Mexico and 10 other countries
  • Female recruiters and pimp/sex trafficking facilitators are perceived to be a significant and growing feature of the underground sex economy
  • Significant CSEC recruitment is happening on high school and middle school campuses

[1] Hereafter “Gang Sex Trafficking in San Diego” .

New Study Reveals Complex and Widespread Sex-Trafficking Ocurring Throughout San Diego County

Read the Executive Summary here

SAN DIEGO, CA – The surprising findings of a three-year study on gang-involved sex trafficking, funded by the Department of Justice, will be released 11 a.m., Monday, October 26 at a press conference at the University of San Diego in the Institute for Peace & Justice Theatre. The groundbreaking study, “Measuring the Nature and Extent of Gang Involvement in Sex Trafficking in San Diego,” lead by University of San Diego Kroc School of Peace Studies Professor Ami C. Carpenter, PhD, in collaboration with Point Loma Nazarene University Professor Jamie Gates, PhD, gathered and analyzed data from hundreds of current and former gang members, schools, law enforcement agencies, and victim service providers. Sheriff Bill Gore, County Supervisor Dianne Jacob, Generate Hope Founder Susan Munsey, Deputy District Attorney Summer Stephen, and Ann Thomas, representing U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, will also participate in the press conference.

“This study is the first long-term, comprehensive collection of data on the Commercially Sexually Exploited People (CSEP) industry ever conducted in San Diego County,” said Carpenter. “Our research combines the intelligence we gathered through hundreds of interviews with gang members, law enforcement representatives, school administrators and other community members with critical information we collected by reviewing incident, arrest and contact data provided by law enforcement agencies. The result is a report that accurately measures the various facets of San Diego’s growing human trafficking problem.”

Dr. Carpenter and Dr. Gates designed the study in collaboration with survivor service providers, law enforcement, prosecutors, County schools, and other researchers. “The inter-agency collaborative nature of Dr. Carpenter and Dr. Gates’ work will be invaluable to San Diego’s law enforcement community,” said San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore.

According to the study, in San Diego County, the underground sex economy represents an estimated $810 million in annual revenue and involves more than 100 area gangs. The study estimates the minimum number of CSEP at 1,766 per year with an average age of entry between 14 to 15 years old.

Other key findings include:

  • Number of “prostitution” arrests which are actually cases of sex-trafficking;
  • Proportion of CSEP victims who are U.S. citizens versus those trafficked from other countries;
  • Cities & neighborhoods most at risk for commercial sexual exploitation
  • The number of gangs in San Diego involved in sex-trafficking, and their characteristics;
  • Demographics of traffickers and trafficked individuals (age, ethnicity, etc.);
  • Key “hotspots” where sex-trafficking occurs;
  • Recruitment tactics; and
  • Recruitment activity within local public schools.

Looking forward, the study highlights future trends, which include the need for cross-sector approaches to community problems and sustainable capital for nonprofits. In addition, the study provides victim service providers with the data needed to justify substantial improvements in the size and scope of support services.

This project was supported by Award No. 2012-R2-CX-0028, awarded by the National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this study are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of the Department of Justice. In addition, members of the San Diego County Human Trafficking and Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children Advisory Council supported the study.

About the University of San Diego

The University of San Diego is a Catholic institution of higher learning committed to teaching, the liberal arts, the formation of values and the creation of ethical leaders. Chartered in 1949, the school enrolls approximately 8,300 undergraduate and graduate full-time equivalent students. The University of San Diego has a long history of public service and is recognized as a Changemaker Campus by Ashoka, the global association of the world’s leading social entrepreneurs. The university’s eight academic divisions include the College of Arts and Sciences, The School of Business Administration, The Shiley-Marcos School of Engineering, The School of Law, The School of Leadership and Education Sciences, the Hahn School of Nursing and Health Sciences, The Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies, and the Division of Professional and Continuing Education. For more information, visit: www.sandiego.edu.

About Point Loma Nazarene University

Point Loma Nazarene University is a selective Christian liberal arts institution located in San Diego, California. Founded in 1902, PLNU is known not only for its 90-acre campus overlooking the Pacific Ocean but also for its well-rounded, forward-thinking graduates. In addition to more than 60 undergraduate areas of study, PLNU offers graduate programs and adult degree options at regional centers throughout Southern California. PLNU serves more than 3,500 students. For more information, visit: www.pointloma.edu

 

My first exposure… (by Ellen)

 (Un psalm al lui David.)

Fiii lui Dumnezeu, daţi Domnului, daţi Domnului slavă şi cinste.

Daţi Domnului slava cuvenită Numelui Lui! Închinaţi-vă înaintea Domnului îmbrăcaţi cu podoabe sfinte!

-Psalmi 29:1-2

My first exposure to the concept of child slavery occurred when my parents showed me a video of an acquaintance of theirs. Jason Russell and two others stumbled upon a systematic epidemic of child slavery in Uganda, and shortly after started the non-profit Invisible Children. They hosted a “Global Night Commute” in Balboa Park, where people stayed the night and wrote letters to President Bush to raise awareness for the organization and the cause. That was the first time I felt empowered to stop something I felt was wrong.

After that, the light went dead for a while. I had little to no exposure of slavery apart from my history textbooks, which I knew was important but didn’t feel was “relevant” to the current generation.

Well…I was absolutely wrong. College happened, Point Loma Nazarene University’s Center of Justice and Reconciliation happened, and the Open Door Foundation happened. I happened to sign up for an information session on the CJR, who unannounced to me would be lead by Jamie Gates. That is where I felt the light flicker on again, but the light broke and started a wildfire. As Jamie explained the facets that the CJR tackles (which you can find here), my eyes welled up and I couldn’t stop grinning. Call it dramatic, but I could’ve powered a house with the adrenaline in my veins.

My introduction to the CJR prompted me to sign up for a Trafficking study course taught by Jamie. There we studied multiple case studies and statistics on trafficking around the United States, but we also put our knowledge to action by promoting the PLNU Beauty for Ashes Scholarship Fund. Despite my fear and hatred of soliciting people, I felt the same eagerness that I felt the night I addressed my letter to the President. The most memorable class meeting, however, was when Monica came and spoke to us.

Monica Boseff is in charge of the Open Door Foundation, a Romanian non-profit that provides a safe space for women who have been trafficked in and around Romania. Currently, this is the only safe house in the country. The story of the safe house is incredible, not only because of the cause behind it but because of the faithfulness of the leaders; there were many times that the project could’ve failed, but God kept it going. Monica spoke to that with the upmost assurance. Overall, her unwavering confidence in the mission of the safe house, as well as her faith in Christ, drew me in like a magnet. I wanted more than anything to find out her story and contribute to the process of anti-trafficking in a similar way. Little did I know that my church was developing a relationship with Open Door. After Monica spoke there, they set up an invitation from Open Door to Mission Church of the Nazarene. Uh…DUH, I’m in!

During the months before our departure, I saw God provide in numerous ways that validated my desire to go. First off, I raised about $900 more than I needed to make the trip, which was diverted to the much-needed ministry/construction fund. My church set up a donation drive that included school supplies, toiletries, snacks and toys for the budding children’s ministry. Lastly, 5 more people were able to join our team at the last minute. All together, we stuffed our suitcases with jars of Skippy and blankets and made off for LAX.

I came to Romania with a preconceived notion. As hard as I tried to clear my head and heart of all judgements and stereotypes, I still arrived with expectations that the women at the safe house would act skiddish around us. In other words, I thought that we would have to work really hard for them to interact with us. I could not have been more wrong! Because these women think of Monica as their mother figure, they trust that the visitors who come are willing to treat them with the same love and respect as Monica does. By the end of the first day, we were on a first-name basis with most of the girls, and some of them gave us hugs or laid their heads on our shoulders. They were so friendly, in fact, that my American “personal bubble” was slightly threatened.

I have issues with pride and control. As most mission trips go, there are many unexpected changes that pop up like Whack-a-Moles, and sometimes you just can’t hit them fast enough. I could have studied Romanian before I left, but that plan was reduced to 4 hours on YouTube the night before leaving. (Special thanks to “Nico” for her awesome YouTube series!) As a result, this was my first mission trip with a real language barrier. My previous trips were in the US or in Mexico, so if there was Spanish to be spoken I ended up translating. It took me a long time to forgive myself for that, but I realized that the ability to translate was often a gateway for me to feel authoritative and elitist. If I knew both languages, then I could control the communication between people. I could control.

In essence, communicating is extremely difficult when one is reduced to a few words and non-verbals. One day, I prepared to work on construction for the back of the safe house. I soon realized that my “job” had been usurped by 2-3 other people; it was so crowded that there was nothing for me to do. Irritated, I retreated with one of my team members to a table outside. At first no one joined us because it was early, but eventually one of the Romanian women wandered over to the table. I can’t recall how we started a Romanian lesson, but we ended up learning how to count to 100.

Unu…doi…trei…patru…cinch….

The woman giggled at our pronunciation flaws and corrected us multiple times before we managed to sputter the numbers. She was incredibly patient with us, and every time she saw us after that, she would start counting and wouldn’t let us stop until we reached 100. What I thought would be a day of purposelessness turned into an opportunity for us to learn something new.

More importantly, what I thought would be a trip of us teaching them, they ended up teaching us. One of the most beautiful observations I made was the goofiness and laughter that the girls shared amongst themselves. The first day, two of the girls randomly started dancing and singing a Romanian pop song, laughing at themselves intermittently. This goes back to the preconceived notion I had; although some of the women were shy and some were still carrying large emotional burdens, all of the women were receptive and welcoming which is more than I could ask for.

The girls’ backstories also taught me a lot about the current trafficking situation in Romania. In our nightly debriefing sessions, the organization’s lawyer and Monica would relate any current news of the women’s and children’s cases to us. They also explained the horrible situations that the women endured before they arrived at Open Door. Most, if not all of them were brought up in abusive homes before they were sold off by their families to traffickers. That alone is enough trauma to last a lifetime, let alone being transported around Romania and Europe for forced labor, sex, and more abuse along with it. Their recovery processes were not simple, either, but Monica asserted that they are always treated with dignity, respect, and love at the safe house. Serving the girls is their ministry, which according to Monica always raises questions. “Why are you doing this?” the women ask within a few days, because they grew up being treated very differently. That is when the staff can start a discussion about their faith, because otherwise the women have no context for who God is or what His love is. In fact, Monica asserts that before they ask, they have every right to refute anyone who claims that Jesus loves them. I mean, why would someone believe in a God who loves them when their definition of love is manipulation, coercion, and abuse?

Glasul Domnului răsună pe ape, Dumnezeul slavei face să bubue tunetul: Domnul este pe ape mari.

Glasul Domnului este puternic, glasul Domnului este măreţ.

-Psalmi 29:3-4

The power of God’s work in the Foundation is incredible, and we saw it work while we were there. During the course of our stay, two of the women got jobs. One of the women got a job as a seamstress, and was able to review because we brought sewing materials with us. Another woman who had not shared any information with the staff since she arrived recounted some of her story, and with that the lawyer started her case. Lastly, a portion of our group was able to assist in the children’s outreach where they pick up kids from their homes and spend time with them. Those kids are in abusive, potential trafficking situations, so they are taken to the church 3 times a week to play games, learn basic education, shower, and be fed. Sometimes it’s their only opportunity to shower or eat, and definitely the only time they go to “school.” Although I never met the children, their stories were equally as powerful.

It became very easy for me to discern when i was feeling prideful and didn’t want to go to the safe house. Not once did I have a reason NOT to go. In fact, each time I arrived, I felt a stronger desire to experience life at the safe house from a different point of view than that a visitor. I wanted to be a part of the everyday, the mundane, the challenging, the emotional, the beautiful, the breakthroughs, the setbacks, and the reality of the women’s lives.

On the night before we left, God confirmed in me a calling to missions. It was not a complete surprise, but more of a validation of my interests in career fields. I know that I want to express my faith openly in my job, since it is the deepest part of me. I do not want an office job. I want to employ all the miscellaneous skills I have (making friendship bracelets, for example) and use them somehow. I want to use my love for languages and passion for justice & reconciliation, be it anti-trafficking, fair trade, racial reconciliation, or another facet. Most importantly, I want to create deep community and relationships with people based on Jesus’ love. Missionary work is NOT easy and it never will be, but when have I ever strived for an easy job? (once every other blue moon, I reckon.)  No, I usually strive for tasks that are interesting and challenging rather than easy. These categories clearly point to a job in ministry.

The mission of Open Door Foundation is to return dignity to women who, by their society’s standards have lost it. Romanian culture is not very forgiving of transgressions (even victims), but the love of Jesus displayed by the staff of Open Door encourages the women in their esteem and view of life. There is beauty that emerges from the ashes. There is joy that comes from the mourning. There is hope, and there is love. I most definitely want to be a part of that.

Ascribe to the Lord, you heavenly beings,

    ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.

2 Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;

    worship the Lord in the splendor of his[a] holiness.

3 The voice of the Lord is over the waters;

    the God of glory thunders,

    the Lord thunders over the mighty waters.

4 The voice of the Lord is powerful;

    the voice of the Lord is majestic.

 

flewerrrr

San Diego County’s Churches Against Trafficking (CAT) Meeting

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Join us at Mission Church of The Nazarene on Thursday, August 20th at 6:30 pm, as we discuss the latest data regarding federal sex trafficking in San Diego, and the next steps for CAT!

Dr. Jamie Gates will be discussing newly released data from a large-scale, two year Federal Grant recently completed by USD and PLNU on the correlation between gangs and sex trafficking in San Diego.  With this in-depth and factual data on human trafficking in our communities, we will discuss what we can do as the people of Christ to address this crime. The last  half of the meeting will be dedicated to discussing the future of CAT and how we can best serve the churches.

Upon Meeting Survivors by Gia Cabarse

I’m standing in a small kitchen washing dishes for a family I’ve known for only three hours and I’m introduced to this new sense of home in my heart. I sit back down at the round dining table, and I’m surrounded by a group of familiar strangers. As Crystal goes on about fermenting her own kombucha beverage at home, I look at the faces around me and dare to fathom the kinds of experiences they’ve gone through. I’m in awe at how they’ve still managed to find love and meaning beyond it.

I didn’t know much about sex trafficking, I only associated concepts and ideas: pimps, prostitutes, money, sex. It all seemed like a lifestyle to me–one in which those involved are shamelessly so. It’s big in the media. Point a finger anywhere on a page of popular hip hop lyrics, and you’re bound to land some concept that suggests the idea of sex for money. But I never could have imagined the reality that exists regarding the sex industry.

Through this internship I was immediately exposed to a great deal of information that was difficult for me to digest. There are children as young as 12 that are brought into this modern type of slavery. They’re often on the street because they’ve run away from home, and the people that pick them up off the streets–to recruit them for “sex work”–start to nurture a relationship based on a false trust and loyalty. These victims endure a tremendous amount of physical, emotional, and psychological abuse from both their “pimps” (those selling them) and the “johns”(those buying them). They are subject to overwhelming trauma, often talked about as “being raped over and over again.” My heart grew heavy with every discovery of this injustice; and at this point, I refuse to let myself stand by idly.

I really look up to the survivors that are here, gathered around the dining table with me.  To have suffered from the cruelty of these crimes, and to spend the remainder of their lives fighting against it, is something truly admirable and absolutely beautiful. As we clear out the dishes, I look to a welcoming and smiling Kathi, and suddenly I know that I’ve found a new passion: the fight against human trafficking.

San Diego Board of Supervisors Approves Report of the Human Trafficking Task Force

On Tuesday, October 21 the San Diego County Board of Supervisors approved a report on the multifaceted aspects of human trafficking in San Diego. According to the District Attorney’s office, San Diego is the 13th highest child prostitution areas in the country. They are quoting Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) data.Screen Shot 2014-10-24 at 3.38.10 PM

This effort started with the formation of an advisory council that reported today on their finding. Members of this council came from multiple areas of law enforcement, the private sector and academia. Jenee Littrell, an expert in the subject, and an educator, led them. This initial advisory board was established June 14, 2011.

According to one of the members of the team, “this has been a labor of love with all the subcommittees coming together.” In the initial testimony to the board human trafficking was spoken as “this incredible human rights violation of women, children and men being prevented from pursuing the dream that the constitution gave us.”

PLNU’s Center for Justice and Reconciliation faculty, staff and students have been at the heart of these developments.  CJR Director Dr. Jamie Gates serves as the co-chair of the Research sub-committee and thus on the Executive committee; Dr. Gates co-presented this report to the Board of Supervisors.  President Brower hosted the pivotal San Diego Human Trafficking Summit back on January 24 of this year where 250 of those most directly involved in combating trafficking came together to map out where San Diego’s resources to do so currently stood, and what the next steps should be for our region.  PLNU students, staff, faculty and alumni volunteered for the Advisory Council and had a strong voice in the development of the recommendations.  PLNU is explicitly mentioned in the recommendations for the coordinating role is has taken to develop the HT-RADAR (human trafficking Research and Data Advisory Roundtable), a network of a couple dozen human trafficking researchers based in universities, non-profits, county social services, school districts and law enforcement.  PLNU has been a part of nurturing a deeply collaborative spirit across communication lines that are sometimes difficult to bridge, witnessing to the power reconciliation to which we are all called.

PLNU Political Science professor Dr. Lindsey Lupo attended the council meeting and had this to say:
“I am so grateful for the dedicated work of the San Diego human trafficking advisory council (including my friend and colleague Dr. Jamie Gates), as they have made San Diego a leader in the combating of modern day slavery. I was honored to be at the County of San Diego Board of Supervisors meeting today to hear their final report and I felt such a sense of hope…we can end child exploitation and sex/labor trafficking in our lifetime – let’s hope our public officials find the political will to do so. And another shout out to my university for being the first in the nation to offer a free college education to human trafficking victims!”

The presentation was covered in local news: http://reportingsandiego.com/2014/10/21/san-diego-county-to-form-a-human-trafficking-taskforce/.

The full report is available here: Human Trafficking Advisory and CSEC Council Report – Final Submission 10-21-14

What College Means to Me – Katherine Fleming

What does college mean to me? College is an opportunity to grow and be excited about finding a purpose for my life. Since starting college I have found that I love to study topics that interest me, like social change and what it looks like to be God’s hands and feet in my future career. College is a place where you can take your passion and make it a vocation. It is a hub for passionate people deciding that they will take what they love and make it their life.

Higher education demands an investment and it shows that the student has committed herself to being a better person through education. It shows future employers that the student is ready and willing to be a dedicated team player who has practiced knowledge in their field. It shows they are capable of flourishing under stress and blooming in adversity.The loyalty of a college student surpasses where they pay their tuition, but shines in where they are learning, growing, and investing in others.

To me, college means a home away from home where I am safe to pursue what I love and meet others who have the same goals. College is a community where you are invested in and where you can invest in others. I know I’m filled to pour out in others and see them grow as much as I have since beginning school. University has opened doors in places I would never have guessed. I have the opportunity to meet congressmen, senators and experts in their respective fields. In college, I see the rewards of great effort, sacrifice, and the importance of diligence in my work.Screen Shot 2014-09-09 at 6.06.45 PM

Katherine is a sophmore Social Work major at PLNU. She’s passionate about ending modern day slavery and is an intern on the Beauty for Ashes Team at PLNU’s Center for Justice & Reconciliation.

 

What College Means to Me by Sabrina Van Zuiden

What College Means to Me

Before this summer, the word college made my stomach churn. It was a word I associated with application deadlines, fees, and the fast approaching end to my youth. I mean, I knew everyone said they were going to be the best years of my life, but how could I really believe them? Why should I believe them?

But of course time doesn’t stop to give you an extra chance to gather your thoughts and feelings, so I went through the process of an overnight stay program, my student orientation, setting my schedule, etc. And the more I get ready for it, the more excited I get. I may not have experienced true college life yet, and I know that there will be difficulties as I make that transition this fall, but I’m starting to see it. I can see it taking shape in front of me- this abstract idea that I had once detested is now turning into a tangible concept and I can see why I should believe all of these people around me claiming the best of college.

To me, college once meant that I was about to jump off the cliff of my comfort zone into the churning, terrifying water of the unknown. Now college means that I’ll have a place to explore the interests that were just budding in high school. College means that I can enjoy education in a way that I never have before; I love my fall schedule so much I do a happy dance in my head every time I think about it. But perhaps the part I’m truly excited about is the opportunity to meet people that I can have stimulating conversation with. In a short conversation at my student orientation I went from talking to someone about the World Cup to debating the institution of sweatshops to discussing the pros and cons of legalizing marijuana. I heard opinions in that one conversation that I never would have considered on my own.

Now, that is what I think of when someone mentions college. It is my opportunity to grow and learn and discover. I might still be making a leap off the cliff of my comfort zone, but the water below isn’t looking as bad as it used to.Screen Shot 2014-09-09 at 6.07.12 PM

Sabrina served this summer as in intern with the PLNU Center for Justice & Reconciliation. She recently began her college experience as a freshman at U.C. Berkeley. We are proud to know Sabrina and can’t wait to see how she changes the world.

We Have A Dream

By Autumn Burris
Autumn BurrisFounder/Director
Survivors for Solutions

We once had a dream and it was not to become a prostituted person.   We dreamed of becoming a writer, a doctor, a lawyer, a truck driver, an artist, a ballet dancer and so many more professions. Dreams that didn’t involve one form of sexual exploitation or another.

Over the past 17 years, listening to countless survivors of sexual exploitation of all ages, nationalities, ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds, I have discovered survivors of sexual exploitation are some of the most intelligent and dedicated people. Survivors have dreams, goals and hopes for their future. They didn’t get lost along the way, they are still there.

In the journey from Victim to Survivor to ultimately Thriver, initially sexually exploited individuals have a myriad of needs-physical, psychological, spiritual, and emotional. Most Survivors I have encountered have a strong desire to earn an education. Returning to school is one of the most powerful tools you can give a Survivor. The reason is very deep and nearly indescribable. Sexually exploited people have had so many things ripped away from them in their lives. Giving the gift of an education is an empowering restorative tool. I say to individuals all the time, “Education is priceless-it is something that is ALL yours no one can take it away from you-not a trafficker, not jail cell-no one-it’s all yours!”

As a survivor, I returned to school late in life to fulfill my dream and passion. My dream came to light when my boss dropped the Trafficking Victim Protection Act of 2000 on my desk and said, “Read this”. In the course of the struggle, the light bulb went off in my brain and within a year, I returned to school.   In 2011, I graduated from The University of California, San Diego with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science with an emphasis on public policy and a minor in Human Rights. In my work in the abolitionist movement, I am thrilled to say that I use my learning from my degree regularly and it empowers me to speak with confidence and pride. I survived and today, I thrive.

In the Survivor community, there are Authors, Attorneys, Doctors, Researchers, PhDs, Case Managers, Social Workers, Therapists, Public Speakers, and those that are attending school now. My hope is that many more Survivors will join us in realizing their dreams.

Autumn is a friend of the PLNU Center for Justice & Reconciliation and the Founder/Director of Survivors for Solutions. Survivors for Solutions was created to advocate for peer-led services and programs, survivor-informed policies at all levels of government, and provide best practices consultation to governments, non-profits and institutions. Survivors for Solutions offers over 15 years of experience in advocacy, administration and service delivery to disenfranchised populations including sexual exploitation and violence against women.

If you want to give to the Beauty for Ashes Scholarship Fund, your tax deductible donation can be given here: Beauty for Ashes Fund.