The Issue & Challenges

What is Sex Trafficking-Sexual Exploitation

What is Sex Trafficking? Trafficking is the term giving to the criminal activity of what we call Modern Day Slavery. It can be Labor trafficking or Sex trafficking.

What is it really? Trafficking is really exploitation. It is vulnerable people being exploited for another person’s gain/profit.

What is left behind? Trauma! Those exploited experience deep trauma from the abuse and repetitive exploitation and this is a huge challenge for their restoration.

Victims are left in what we call the ATS Cycle. ABUSE >TRAUMA > SHAME

The abuse occurs and creates a trauma and the trauma will produce shame. The shame experienced makes it more probable for more abuse, more trauma and again more shame.

What does it look like in the U.S.?

Trafficking/Exploitation in the U.S. looks a lot like “relationships”. Traffickers use manipulation to trick vulnerable persons into exploitative situations. Some victims are lured into the U.S. with hopes of jobs such as maids or nannies. Many victims are involved in a relationship with their trafficker and then forced into "prostitution". Almost all victims are physically abused.

Why is this injustice growing rapidly? It is undercover but yet right in front of us. Many people just do not want to "believe" this is happening in their community. The reality is hard to face and acknowledge. The reality that we have humans forcing other humans to be sexually abused, raped, beaten and forced into drug addictions all for a PROFIT. Victims are being used and abused for someone else's profit. It's much easier to pretend it doesn't exist or its a "lifestyle choice”.


Trauma is defined as a deeply disturbing event that impairs an individuals' sense of control and decreases the ability for the person to handle their reality.

The different types of trauma an exploited victim and vulnerable potential victims can endure are: 

-       sexual abuse

-       assault

-       physical abuse

-       assault

-       emotional abuse

-       victim

-       witness to community violence

-       victim/witness to extreme personal violence.  


There are many challenges in fighting this injustice that can be categorized into 3 topics:

-       Laws

-       Impact of trauma

-       Lack of safe places for healing

Laws: The trafficking laws in the U.S. vary per state. Virginia was the last state to enact standalone human trafficking laws - SB1188 and HB1964.  These were passed April 1, 2015.

These laws still need to not only be improved but also enforced as well as prioritized with the goal to lessen the demand and decriminalize prostitution. 

Soliciting prostitution is just a misdemeanor, but this "purchase" is the act that continues to increase the "demand", thus increasing the need for more "products".  The harshest sentencing rests with victims, limiting their chances to escape.

Impact of Trauma: More heartbreaking than knowing and understanding the reality of sexual exploitation/trafficking is the reality that victims are not running away from their traffickers to freedom, rather enduring a cycle of abuse they have been conditioned to.

This is a result of the deep trauma they have endured. Victims are oppressed not only by mental, physical and sexual abuse they endure but also the shame that comes along with abuse.

On average victims have sex with anywhere from 15-30 men a day.  A woman who is 23 yrs and has been exploited since she was 14 has had sex with 65,700 (that is with the average of 20 men per day for 7 days a week for 9 years). After that much abuse, there is not much room to hope, if any at all. The result is they are robbed of the self-worth and value that would motivate them to leave. These victims have become accustomed to living in the cycle of a traumatic lifestyle.

The Lack of Restorative Care: There are not enough safe places to heal compared to the number of victims.

Cities and states that do not have a specific restorative care center for sexually abused victims are limited in available options.  Victims may be able to stay at domestic abuse or homeless shelter but that is not sustainable, nor can the shelter cater to the unique demands of sexual abuse trauma.

The deep impact of trauma creates a hard shell on the outside, but the inside is a broken individual. It takes time to begin the healing process of putting those pieces back together. We believe to provide the best possible opportunity for restoration we must BREAK the ATS Cycle! It’s important to treat the trauma first so true healing and restoration can begin. The challenge is:

1) Having facilities that are not only shelters, but trauma informed care trained as well

2) Getting women to “choose” healing

3) Victims staying throughout the complete healing process