Restore One

Combating human trafficking and human exploitation by means of public awareness, practical prevention, restorative care and building domestic and international partnerships.


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Boy$ Documentary: shedding light on male sex trafficking

boysdocRestore One’s newest project is Boy$ Documentary. Boysdoc will talk about human trafficking’s unknown victims: boys. The documentary will feature victims, advocates, those that collect the data on male sex trafficking (which are few) and go to homes where male victims stay. Additionally, the film will highlight the fact that male sex trafficking victims do not have restoration homes exclusive to their needs which Restore One works to address through the Anchor House. Follow Restore One and Black Tree Media Group ‘s journey on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook  as they travel all over the US to bring to validity that sex trafficking happens to males too.


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Caught: Sex Trafficked Boys & the Violent Cycle of Powerlessness

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Sexual violence against men and boys is a topic that is seldom discussed. Often we hear victims are women and children, and we assume that the children are girls and that males are the primary perpetrator. At Restore One, we seek to serve a population that is often unspoken for, sex trafficked and sexually exploited boys. The phrase, sex trafficked children, does not specify an exact gender or ethnic population. However, folks are always very surprised to hear that boys are sex trafficked and sexually exploited just like girls. You may ask, how are boys sold and where and who buys them?

The sexual exploitation of boys remains hidden. I’d go as far as to say it is an even more hushed crime than female sex trafficking. It is an immense moneymaker for those governing the trade. The buying and selling of boys for the purposes of sex are found throughout the United States both in the ritziest neighborhoods and poorest districts of the city. The research study The Commercial Exploitation of Children in New York City in 2008 estimates that as much as 50% of commercial sexually exploited children are males.

Regardless of the location or by which means the deed is done, one link remains true to every story I’ve witnessed or heard, the sexual violence against boys is directly linked to powerfully exploiting the powerless. While money is the blatant fuel behind the sex trafficking and sexual exploitation of boys, the cycle of powerlessness is what leaves boys vulnerable to violence. To explain the cycle of powerlessness in relationship to the sex trafficking and exploitation of boys, I created the story of Paul. Paul was inspired by my countless interactions with male survivors and the honor it’s been for me to hear their many stories. Thus, The story of Paul.

Paul is a teenage boy with a jaded history of sexual abuse, foster care, low self-esteem and parent maltreatment. He had no part in the choices that his parents, the state and others have made on his behalf that have caused him much harm and heartache at a young age of 15. Life has left him vulnerable and powerless. In the mist of his despair, he is sought out by a pimp and recruited into the life.

The men he is forced to service are men in power, patrol cops, wealthy business owners, a college football coach, politicians and even pastors. His pimp is part of a large criminal ring, and they traffick boys and girls in every state. If Paul were to run, he’d never really get out because they would find him and welcome him with a beating. His pimp tells him that since he’s had sex with men, he’s not good for nothing but turning tricks.

One night during a large undercover rescue operation, Paul was found along with other children who’ve been sex trafficked. When the agents see Paul they are stunned. When he was first interviewed, they were testing him to see if he was a trafficker but after some probing they saw that he was a victim. Determining this though was not much help because there were no services specifically for boys who’ve been sex trafficked. Law enforcement did their best and referred him to the Department of Social Services, and he was then placed in a foster care home. Within a few weeks Paul is groped by one of the older kids in the home and he immediately remembered the words of his pimp, “You ain’t good for nothing but turning tricks.”

In a state of frustration, Paul believed the haunting words of his pimp, ran away and went back into the life.

Unfortunately Paul is the story of many boys.  Boys find when seeking services or wanting out of the life that their power is rendered and immobilized when service care providers refuse to provide proper services due to gender. With no services specific to meet their fragile needs, there is little hope for boys to exit the life. A victim of violence again is left powerless and the cycle continues.

I’ve had countless conversations with community members advising me to focus on women and girls and that the community is not ready to deal with sex trafficked boys. When it comes to the topic of male victimization, our culture demands we look the other way. Direct services for victims of sexual violence are harshly female centered with few gateways for males.  The Department of State claims that the often hidden crime of sex trafficking boys remains under wraps largely due to the cultural climate and taboos around the practice. I’ve found that the majority of Americans want to believe two things about the sex trafficking of men and boys: 1) Men and boys always have the power to get out, therefore they are not considered victims; 2) Men and boys are not in need of the same victim services that are offered to women and girls. However, I believe with an able body and willing heart, the story of Paul can change and so can these taboos around the trafficking of males. Males, who are victims of sexual violence such as sex trafficking and sexual exploitation, need you to advocate on their behalf by being a voice. I charge you to speak up and to do your part to begin addressing the gap in victim services for males within your own community. Remember, the cycle of powerlessness can end with just your voice.

This blog is dedicated to the work of IJM and the Locust Effect. Thank you IJM for reaching out to us and including us in this initiative.

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That Can’t Happen To Me

Elisabeth Corey, guest blogger: 

I love it when people are talking about this issue because it increases awareness.  And awareness means prevention.  It is that simple. That being said, there is something about the extra attention that concerns me.  The more people and media outlets discussing an issue, the more potential for misperceptions of the problem.  I have read several articles discussing how trafficking is not sex trafficking, and sex trafficking is not just about children.  This is so true.  The media will focus on what brings the most readers, and labor trafficking of adult men doesn’t create the interest.  Also, the public is more willing to accept that a girl or boy can be coerced in to sex trafficking.  They are less likely to believe that adult women and men could be controlled in that manner.  Most people believe that adult women and men are willing participants, which is far from the truth.

Although these misperceptions concern me, there is something that concerns me more.  The crime of trafficking builds fear in the general public.  It is very scary to think that a human trafficking victim might look like everyone else.  There seems to be an effort to create some kind of separation between a trafficking victim and the rest of the population.  I have heard statements like, “Trafficking victims come from fatherless or broken homes.”  “The victims usually come from other countries.”  “Victims are usually from families struggling with poverty.”  None of this is correct.

I have seen this fearful approach used with other tragedies.  When the earthquake hit Haiti, Pat Robertson claimed that they brought it on themselves.  Why did he say that?  I believe it was too difficult for him to admit that he was just as likely to lose everything in a massive earthquake.  In reality, he is.  We all are.  Similarly, many tried to separate themselves from the victims of Hurricane Katrina by blaming those who stayed behind (even though they had no means to leave).  Stereotyping victims, which is one form of victim blaming, may relieve some of our fears on the surface, but it doesn’t do anything for our compassion for others.

I know human trafficking victims that come from many races, ethnicities, socio-economic backgrounds, education levels and family structures.  Personally, I was trafficked while living with two college-educated parents, in a middle-class suburban community.  We were white.  We were not poor.  We were socially engaged in our community.  I attended a regular public school.  It is difficult for the average American to separate themselves from my circumstances.  And that’s scary.

As a society, it is important that we reach beyond our fear and come to the realization that human trafficking is pervasive everywhere.  We need to understand that all children are potential targets.  We need to understand that adults are just as likely to be coerced or forced to work or provide sex.  We need to leave behind the concept that “this can’t happen to me” and wake up to our reality.  As I stated before, awareness is prevention.  But awareness means more than admitting that trafficking exists.  It means admitting that trafficking potentially exists for anyone, anywhere, anytime.  This is true awareness.  This is what we need now.

Elisabeth is a survivor of family-controlled child sex trafficking and ritual sex abuse.  Her education in social work and her personal experiences as a survivor inform her intimate discussion about the biological, psychological, social and spiritual aspects of trauma recovery, which she discusses on her blog. Follow her on Twitter. 


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Pearl Ministry Director appointed to state human trafficking commission

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Sarah Tellis, director of Pearl Ministry in New Bern, NC has been appointed by the governor to be on the Human Trafficking Commission as part of North Carolina’s commitment to ending modern day slavery through the Safe Harbor Act. Congrats Sarah!

Find more about Pearl Ministry.


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A True Win

Our challenge to you…

After the clock hits zero at this year’s Super Bowl and a team is crowned champion, you may feel that you have done your part for this year in raising awareness about the horrific crime of human trafficking. Now, however, we are asking that you look at every other day of the year because there are 365 days a year that can be an opportunity to foster a culture of life change around you. Human trafficking is a 365 day problem, and it’s time for you to step up every day, not just show your awareness on a particular day or month out of the year. We need you! They need you! So whether you get involved with Restore One or another organization that is pounding the pavement to fight human trafficking, that will be a true win. Decide now to engage everyday in the fight. Decide now to use your gifts and talents to help change the lives of those around you. When everybody does their part, then we all win and that is a true win!

So today when the clock hits zero, what will your next steps be for the rest of 2014? Will you say you’re done? Or will you step up and fight everyday?

I would like to leave you with two quotes to ponder…

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Martin Luther King

“You may choose to look the other way, but you can never say again that you did not know.” – William Wilberforce, British Abolitionist

Because Every Life Matters,

Chris Smith

Co-Founder & President of Restore One