It’s time to begin a #MeToo movement for unacknowledged sex trafficking survivors

It’s time to begin a #MeToo movement for unacknowledged sex trafficking survivors

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A killing spree is going on in America, and the recent shooting of a Kenosha sex trafficker by a young, sexually abused teenage girl who was exploited by him, should be a clear wake up call that there’s an epidemic in America unlike any seen as it relates to child abuse and sex trafficking.

Sex trafficking survivors continue to be arrested and incarcerated for crimes they were forced to commit in self-defense or at the hands of their traffickers — including many child victims arrested for prostitution and even for sex trafficking.

In Kenosha last week, it was Chrystyl Kizer who shot Randall Volar in the head and set his home on fire. Another case occurred this past Spring in Cincinnati, when a male teen was accused of killing his sex trafficker. This 16-year-old was charged in his death after being arrested within 24 hours of the killing. He has been held in juvenile detention ever since.

And let’s not forget Cyntoia Brown from Texas who was imprisoned as a teenager and at age 16, tried as an adult and sentenced to a minimum of 51 years in prison for the 2004 murder of a much older Nashville man who’d picked her up for sex. She has recently been released acquitted of charges.

These young people who kill their traffickers are not criminals. They are acting in self defense. They are tragic examples of ongoing violence permeating their young lives, including being sexually abused as children.

Groomed at a tender age, they don’t stand a chance of leading normal lives unless they are rescued and rehabilitated. Others face jail time and are treated as criminals.

Yet, despite the growing data, children (and adult) victims of sex trafficking continue to be arrested and with arrest records, survivors are unable to apply for jobs, public housing and even college. Left without options, they are vulnerable to yet future exploitation.

This is the time to continue to fuel another #metoo movement that has enveloped $99 billion sex trafficking industry and has directed a spotlight on sexually motivated crimes that all too often, hide in the shadows of our everyday lives.

Victims have been given a voice that is now being heard and the predators behind these crimes are being held accountable, and more importantly losing the steel shelters they’ve hid behind for so many decades in America’s towns and cities.

Furthermore, criminal code should be revised nationally to allow trafficked and sexually exploited teens and women to expunge their criminal records. Instead of arresting child trafficking victims acting in defense to escape a life of abuse, we need to legally treat them as traumatized people in need of services.

The American criminal justice system—and society as a whole—must stop viewing victims as criminals if we want to ensure justice for survivors of these crimes. Instead of being criminally charged, they must have the opportunity to receive the assistance and support they need through programs like The Selah Way Foundation and Selah Freedom, the largest anti-sex trafficking service organizations in the country. Our programs include safe houses for sex trafficking victims, including one recently opened in Wisconsin.

Rehabilitation, mentoring and education is key as Cyntoia Brown proved. With Sex Trafficking behind her, she says she will start her own nonprofit to support other young survivors. She deserves that chance; all survivors of sex trafficking victims do. Their #MeToo time is here.

Elizabeth Melendez Fisher Good is CEO and co-founder of Selah Freedom and the Selah Way Foundation. 

  

Elizabeth Melendez Fisher Good is CEO and co-founder, Selah Freedom, and The Selah Way Foundation.

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