Writer’s identity has been withheld for privacy.
Last November our family was taken by complete surprise to find out that our son who had just begun his sophomore year at a college that one year earlier awarded him an almost full scholarship to a private college had become addicted to drugs and was being controlled by drug traffickers. His activities included illicit sex, pornographic pictures / videos, vile parties and delivery of illegal drugs. We didn’t know these things initially but became gradually aware over the next 8 months. During this time we experienced the most horrific events we ever imagined. It brought our family to an abrupt halt.
I received a phone call just previous to Thanksgiving from our son who told me he had some kind of breakdown or panic attack. He said the resident advisor was helping him get through it and he was feeling better. He also told me he thought he should see the campus medical/psychological facility to help him as well.
Thanksgiving arrived and all of us gathered together at his sisters’ apartment to celebrate located in the same city where the college was. It was obvious there was something wrong. Our son seemed to be a different person. He mumbled things, at times he had a hard time staying awake, his personal hygiene was noticeably bad, he shook at times and more. We left that day agreeing to keep in check with each other and make sure he was getting proper medical and psychological care.
He came home for Christmas. The condition had worsened. We asked what was wrong and how could we help. No answers from him. He would sleep for days, not coming out of his room. He returned to school and after 2-3 weeks and had to drop out. We still were confused about what was wrong. There were so many affects. We didn’t know what we should do. Then one night at the dinner table he had a complete psychological / physical breakdown and we rushed him to the ER.
The circumstances that followed that night at the hospital were unexplainable. My wife and I watched our son disintegrate for more than 3 hours straight. We were unable to do anything about what was happening before our eyes. I’ve seen some situations in my day but this was hell and we couldn’t escape.
It started to become a little clearer about what was wrong over the next few months as we were able to get him into a state funded outpatient treatment center for mental health, alcohol and drug addiction. This failed to work for him and he was quickly back to the destructive life of drug addiction and suffering from the effects that human trafficking left him with. We had no idea how to get our arms around the human trafficking part of his life. This was so far beyond our imagination and his diagnosis was still unclear. Was schizophrenia a part of this? There was just too much even for the doctors to accurately process everything. The prognosis was unknown as well.
I continued to search for help. I couldn’t find any medical, psychological or mental health care facility that helped men who fell victims to trafficking. There were hundreds that helped young girls and women but nothing for men. On top of it all the cost for resident programs was so far out of range. The cost for residential programs ranged from 20 – 120 thousand for one month of treatment. I was able to get my son into a state resident program dealing with drug and alcohol addiction. This really helped. He was able to dry out and start thinking clearly again. Now that he was beginning to heal and wasn’t under the influence of drugs the PTSD started surfacing from the trafficking experiences/trauma.
I continued to search for someone who knew something about finding help for men involved in human trafficking. I found Restore One director Anna Smith’s project on the internet so I called and left a message. Anna called me back and was able to direct me to an organization that had experience in helping men. She listened to me for a long time. I really needed that. I was at the end, out of gas, ready to throw the towel in and she gave me one last ray of hope. It sounded like a total long shot but I took her up on the person she told me to call.
After a month of communicating with this person, by a miracle my son was accepted into their program at no cost. He has been there for 4 months now and is doing well. My wife and I were afraid that he would get there and it wouldn’t be a good fit. To our absolute joy the next day after he arrived we received the first call from him. I almost didn’t want to answer. His voice was filled with the son I thought we lost. Weeks earlier it was like he died and now I hear the son I’ve know all these years. He was back. It’s hard believe the process God worked all of this out considering the complex problems and limited resources that were before us, but he has and we’re thankful for all who have been a part.
There is one last piece to this puzzle. It was something that came up unexpected one night when my wife and I were trying to put together the pieces of how and where this all began. We sat down with our son (this was during the time when he was still using and living at home for the previous 3 weeks) I asked him the question “When did this all begin”? He took us back to a kids Bible camp we took him to 15 years earlier. He told us of the horrors of being molested by a young man and how confused he was about all that took place. May the boys and young men who walk through these doors find healing from the trauma they’ve experienced, from the injustices of abuse, human trafficking and the exploitation of those who are vulnerable.
GREENVILLE, NORTH CAROLINA—Over 500 local and national abolitionists will gather for the “Stand for One Gala” on Sep. 26 to raise $70,000 for the first shelter for trafficked males in the U.S. that will be spearheaded by local nonprofit, Restore One.
“The Stand for One gala is our biggest fundraiser of the year. Every dollar donated is a step closer to our goal to open doors to sex trafficked boys through The Anchor House,” said PR Director Persida Montanez.
The gala will begin at 7 p.m. and will be located at the Rock Spring Center in Greenville. It is the second gala that Restore One hosts. The first, which was held on Oct. 2014, was attended by over 400 guests. The gala will include dinner, live music, guest speakers and a silent auction.
Michael Cusick, they keynote speaker, is the Founder and President of Restoring the Soul Ministries, who serves as an adjunct professor at Denver Seminary and is the author of Surfing for God. Cusick’s personal testimony and heart for healing from sexual baggage and brokenness parallels with Restore One’s mission to restore sex trafficked boys and men.
Rebecca Bender, a former sex trafficking victim and founder of Rebecca Bender Ministries, will be the master of ceremonies. Bender is also an award winning, internationally recognized speaker, author and survivor leader in the movement to eradicate modern day slavery.
“Attendees and donors are as much a part of The Anchor House as the staff and the foundation upon which The Anchor House will be built. Those that will be in attendance are Restore One,” said Montanez.
Tickets are on-sale online.
For more information about the event visit the Restore One website: restoreonelife.org
Watch a video recap of last year’s gala.
For many, high school is the time of trying to fit in with the cool kids or planning for college, for me it meant finding my calling in life. In Johnston County, in order to graduate high school, students must complete a graduation project on a topic of their choosing. While my classmates were building a life size Barbie, or teaching kids to make healthy snacks, I wanted to end human trafficking. Crazy idea for a sixteen year old to think, right? When my parents and my teachers asked me how I thought I was going to do this, I answered, “I have no idea, but God does!” That was the beginning of Operation Restoration was born and the first steps in shaping the rest of my life.
The main goal of Operation Restoration is to bring awareness of the issue of human trafficking as a whole, while focusing on the issue in North Carolina, as well as partnering with the safe homes in North Carolina for survivors and overcomers of human trafficking. Since the creation of Operation Restoration in late 2011, we have done a number of presentations to church groups, local news and government, and various community groups throughout the state. I had no idea that this one assignment would take me where it has.
Earlier this year, in March I was approached by Ressie Toland, the wife of Whitman Toland, the pastor of C3 Greensboro, to discuss some things that God has put on her heart. I have known the Toland’s for fourteen years, due to growing up in the church when it was first founded, but since moving away from Greensboro our communications had not be consistent. Ressie called me one Saturday afternoon and shared that God was putting the issue of human trafficking on her heart and she knew that this was not a burden that she was meant to carry alone. She then presented a partnership between C3 Greensboro and Operation Restoration in order to sponsor the safe homes in North Carolina for a year. I sat in my car in tears, explaining to her that this is something we at Operation Restoration have been praying for, someone to come forth with a reach much greater than our own and back us up in sponsoring these homes in order to make a difference in the lives of survivors that they serve.
Throughout the next few months, the planning of the partnership, that was now called the Freedom Initiative, went about and June 22nd was decided as the date for the first “Freedom Sunday” When deciding which of the four houses in North Carolina would be the first home to be sponsored in the Freedom Initiative I felt that draw to Chris and Anna at Restore One and in discussing with Pastor Ressie, we agreed that the Anchor House would be the first to be sponsored.
The morning of the 22nd came and I continued to pray that the Lord would speak through me and begin to stir in the hearts of the congregation. After the service we were overwhelmed with the response of concerned church members asking how this could be happening and what they could do to stop it. My heart was humbled as I saw mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers all concerned for these sons, daughters, siblings, that were being trafficked everyday and having a desire to end this tragic injustice. As we were packing up the Operation Restoration booth that afternoon, Pastor Whit came to me and said that the offering taken up for the Anchor House was $7,000. I cannot say thank you enough to all of the church members for their open hearts and minds as we feed into this amazing ministry and join in the fight against human trafficking together.
I never imagined that four years ago any of this would have happened because of a crazy dream I had at sixteen years old. Human trafficking is still happening all around us everyday, but if we continue to work together and be a voice for those without a one, we will see it come to an end. I want to commend Chris and Anna Smith for their diligence and obedience to the things that God has placed on their hearts and am believing for breakthrough and provision in their next steps in opening the Anchor House.
How did you get involved with RO?
I have always enjoyed using my free time to give back to the community. When I moved to Greenville, as a missionary for a ministry called Dirty Vagabond Ministries, I knew that I wanted to find a way to help other organizations in town that were trying to make a difference. Restore One was one of the very first ministries I heard of when I got here. I was talking with a good friend of mine, and he explained to me that not only was Restore One a ministry that focused on human trafficking, but that their focus was on helping young boys are victims of DMST. As soon as he said that they helped male victims of sexual exploitation, I knew immediately that I had to do whatever I could to support them. I have a passion for helping people who have been sexual exploited, especially men. I did my senior thesis on Male Victims of Childhood Sexual Abuse, because I feel like they are often ignored or diminished when it comes to this kind of victimization. It’s not often that you meet people who have a passion for that, so I knew that I had to get involved.
What got you involved in the fight against trafficking?
When I was working as an intern at the Sexual Assault Help Center in Steubenville, OH, my boss would speak with me about the larger issues that would come up at conferences she attended. One day, I saw her hanging up a poster she had received at a conference that had information about human trafficking on it. When I asked her about the poster, she told me that, at that time, Ohio was ranked as one of the top 5 states where human trafficking was a major issue,. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I knew human trafficking existed overseas, but I had no idea that such a horrific crime was rampant in the US, let alone in the state that I lived in. At that moment, the reality of Domestic Human trafficking became real to me, and from then on I joined the fight to help end human trafficking.
What is your background?
I am from a small coastal town in Mississippi named Gulfport. My passions include, but are not limited to, painting, knitting and crocheting, psychological research, my faith, watching interesting independent films and documentaries, well-made food, ministry, learning about everything that interests me, theatre, the sky, beautiful flowers, and volunteering. I attended a small Catholic university in Steubenville, OH called Franciscan University of Steubenville. While I was there I earned a Bachelors of Psychology (with honors) and Master’s of Arts in Counseling. I have been trained in acting and counseling. I would say that some of my skills are of an administrative nature (emailing, making spreadsheets, etc), I’m also good at public speaking, working with large groups, listening, problem solving, being understanding, being supportive, and cracking many hilarious jokes.
What will you be doing with RO this Summer?
I will be at RO as intern this summer, and I will be helping them with the Stand for One gala. I will also be helping them to develop a survey.
Have any goals?
I would say that my main goal is just to help them to accomplish what they need to as a ministry. I’m cool to help with whatever I can help with. I would say that my secondary goal would be to complete the survey!
What are you most excited about?
I am most excited about getting to know the staff at Restore One, and doing whatever ever I can to help combat human trafficking J
I have studied abroad in Europe, Austria to be exact. I have never eaten a Twinkie…I don’t trust them. I can do splits well. I love to dance. One of my best friends is related to William Wallace. When I was younger, I owned a pair of earrings made from some of the ash of Mt. Saint Helen’s.
By Nelli Agbulos, guest blogger.
While the above photo does not pertain to male trafficking, the reaction a male trafficking victim would get would be the same if someone knew a man had been raped. Males are typically perceived to be the “bad guy” “predator” “pimp” and “perpetrator” in the crime-scene world, and they are rarely recognized as victims. This has much to do with the gender construction in society.
According to the Polaris Project, the average age of entry into prostitution for boys is 11 to 13 years old. That age range has them considered as children, and about 50% of child sex trafficking victims are boys. They go from a path of poverty to prostitution to human trafficking. Lack of publicity and advocacy makes male sex trafficking attractive to criminal networks, to fill the demand and pages of pornography magazines.
Male victims of human trafficking are typically runaways or those who were thrown out of their homes. Many experience high rates of physical, sexual, and psychological abuse from family members, and that makes boys more vulnerable and susceptible to drugs and alcohol. In turn, drugs and alcohol becomes those boys’ coping mechanisms, which incidentally become one of the reasons they get sexually exploited so that they can fund their alcohol and drug supply. Seeking love is another reason runaway/homeless boys turn to sexual exploitation, to fill the longing and care not mutually given in previous experiences. Boys are often recruited by friends and peers, though some are known to have pimps (who keep most of their earnings).
Boys are not considered a “high risk group” to be included in research, outreach, and rehabilitation services for human trafficking. Male trafficking victims only get attention if the news breaks out as a local or national scandal – and again, this rarely happens. There is gender construction in being a victim, and that is attributed to the ideals of masculinity held by the general public. Since boys aren’t perceived to be victims, they aren’t encouraged to speak out when something happens; they are shunned because of the belief they are “stronger”, more self-efficient, and are capable of taking better care of themselves. These qualities of masculinity have become normalized to the point that they pressure men with unrealistic expectations. Men become afraid to speak up because of the shame and embarrassment associated with what happened to them. Even law enforcement officials have been known to doubt male victims. An ECPAT study revealed that boys are reluctant to declare themselves as victims or report incidents of exploitation to avoid the potential stigma associated with being viewed as gay. Undeniably, men are put under the cloak of invisibility regarding topics on male sexual exploitation (such as male rape, domestic violence, and human trafficking) that has them as victims.
I’m not saying female human trafficking should be held in any less regard to male trafficking. There is still so much to be done to combat female trafficking and its equally nuanced layers. However, an alarming statistic produced by the United States State Department reports that between 2006 and 2008, the percentage of adult trafficking male victims jumped from 6% to 45%. If that 39% increase isn’t a cause for concern, then maybe this issue is being blown out of proportion. Human trafficking is as an issue that happens to both genders. Men are just as affected by human trafficking and require the same attention as females.
Restore 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.