The A.C.T United Team! Meet our “child champion” Abigail

My name is Abigail, I was born in St. Louis, Missouri but I have lived
in Minnesota for the past 10 years. I will be going into my second year
at Ethnos360 Bible Institute this fall 2020. I first learned about a ministry
to help those coming out of trafficking 2 years ago. I have wanted to
work against trafficking since then and I am thrilled to finally be
getting involved!

As I was searching for opportunities, I was directed to ACT United by a
friend. I immediately loved what they were doing and applied for an
internship! I am now the community engagement and communications intern!
I am so excited to join the team and work and learn alongside everyone
at ACT United.

I love what ACT United is doing by raising awareness to stop trafficking
and exploitation before it even starts. I am excited to use my skills
and experience to help stop youth trafficking.

Words from A.C.T United- We are so blessed to have Abigail on our team! In the past she has been a missionary to China where she worked in orphanages to connect waiting children to loving Chinese forever families. We are so excited and grateful to see all the amazing work she will do working with us!

The A.C.T. United Team! Meet our “action hero” Annette

Annette Thompson

Annette Thompson Communications and Community Engagement Volunteer

Although I have traveled a lot in my lifetime I have always lived in Minnesota, so I say I am a big healthy German / Norwegian Minnesota girl. I spent most of my growing up years on Bald Eagle Lake in White Bear Lake. Having learned to waterski on the St. Croix River at the age of 5, I was competing in slalom, trick, and jump at a national level by the age of 12. My two brothers and I, along with my Mom and Dad, all participated and traveled to local, regional, and national tournaments. I guess you could say my family made the most of the short Minnesota summers.  After graduating from White Bear Lake High School I attended Brown Institute in Minneapolis, completing their Radio and TV Broadcasting program. After a couple of years of small town radio gigs I returned to the big city for a job in Telecommunications. For 15 years I traveled the metro area designing, installing and cutting over large phone systems. As telecom converted to data so did I. For the past 15 years I worked as an IT project manager with various customers across the US. Managing technical projects has been my life long career, always changing, always challenging, yet also fun.

In 1985 my husband and I purchased a very small home on Spring Lake in Prior Lake. That’s where my son and daughter were born. After 10 years on Spring Lake, we moved to Prior Lake. I have lived in Prior Lake for the past 35 years.

While raising my kids I became involved with youth and my community. I coached soccer for 6 years, grades K through 6th. I taught Sunday School for a couple of years, later I was a small group leader for 7th and 8th grade girls. The tradition continues as I am currently my granddaughters Awana small group leader.

I have attended Friendship Church for the past 22 years, currently I am serving on the Hospitality Team. I have attended BSF, completing 9 years of the 10 year program. During 2005 and 2006 I went into the women’s prison in Shakopee as part of a ministry with my church. In 2006 – 2007, I was so blessed when I was able to work at MN Adult and Teen Challenge. I am still connected with them and have friends that work there. It is an amazing organization. I exponentially spiritually grew while I worked there.

Currently, I am an elected official serving my second term as a City Councilor for the City of Prior Lake. Something God called me to because I would have never picked it in a million years.

God originally broke my heart for sex trafficking back in 2000 when I read a story in Christian magazine about a 12 year old girl who was kidnapped from her grandmother’s home in Asia and sold into sex trafficking.

She was rescued by a Samaritans Purse worker, taken into their program where she received care, and eventually Christ. They bought her a juice machine, provided her business training, and at the age of 15 she supported herself selling juice in the market. It troubled me so I never forgot it. I have always had deep compassion for vulnerable youth, kids without parents, or kids without attentive parents. They are victims of their circumstances, they grow up vulnerable, some become troubled, some fall into evil. My heart breaks for these children. I would love to help lead them to Christ, to healing, and to a new life.

Thank you for the opportunity to become a member of your team. I look forward to working with you as we spread awareness and prevention to youth and communities regarding sex trafficking and bring them the love and hope of Christ.

Annette

https://www.facebook.com/connect.actunited

Knowledge is a Step to Freedom

By Lilly B.

Photo by Daniel Reche on Pexels.com

 For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11 LIV

“Right Now” Your Story, Your Value, Your Action to End Human Trafficking is the 5th annual conference for A.C.T. United and is coming up on Saturday, Feb. 15 from 8:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. What does that have to do with you? What can you do to educate and prevent sex trafficking? It never happens in my community is what you might be thinking, but is that true? Probably not.

My journey began as a young vulnerable child. My family attended church and Sunday school. I went to a public school and no one would have suspected that I was being sexually abused. My grandfather, I believe, was sexually abused as a child. That “habit” carried over to his grandchildren, one of which was me.

I braved up the courage to tell my parents when I was 11 but was met with unbelief. I was accused of lying to my dad. “I don’t ever want to hear you talk about my dad in that way ever again!” He was very emphatic, in fact yelling, with a finger in my face, response. Years of abuse as a young child led to me stuffing my anger and blaming myself for what was happening every time we visited. I made a point of staying away from my grandpa and becoming the protector of my 4 younger siblings. Looking back now, it doesn’t surprise me that when my 5th grade male school teacher and Sunday School teacher began abusing me I didn’t tell anyone for fear I would again be branded as a liar.

Fast forward many years later, a mother of two and grandmother of three with a heart to follow God. Little did I know the path God would put me on. It began with a bible study at church written by the International Justice Mission. My eyes were opened to the slavery and abuse that many of our young children are going through. The study lasted 6 weeks but each week I asked our leader, “What about the children here in our communities and in the United States?” Each week I was told we were focusing on the sex trade overseas. A few months after finishing that study, friends of ours that were in the same study told us about a conference in Chaska with the organization A.C.T. United that focused on prevention of sex trafficking here in Minnesota. They asked if we wanted to go and we signed up. Last year’s conference brought a big change in me.

Through the years I had much professional counseling about my childhood but it wasn’t until last year’s conference that I heard the words that would set me free. “It’s ok to tell.” Through all those years I had never been given permission to tell of my struggles with a family that stayed silent and allowed sexual abuse to happen to me. I came home from that conference and wrote the poem “It’s ok to Tell”.

Step by step the Lord led me to join up with A.C.T. United as I volunteered to do “anything the Lord wants me to do” and ended up writing a blog as Lilly B. The name of Lilly B is my grandma’s name. She was married to my grandpa. She walked in on my grandpa abusing me as a three year old child. Her response was a tear in her eye, pulled the curtain closed and left me there. When grandpa was done, he called to her to come and clean up my mess. In later years, I discovered I wasn’t the only grandchild that my grandpa abused. In fact, during a heart to heart with my dad, he not only apologized for not believing me but confessed that the same thing had happened to some of his siblings. Acknowledging my abuse would have meant acknowledging the childhood abuse he had seen and suffered and at that time the easiest thing to do was to blame me. That conversation, in turn, freed my mom to tell my dad that grandpa had also tried to sexually abuse her and one of my aunts, his son’s wives.

This has been a year of healing for me as I write under my grandmother’s name. I believe it is a tribute to her, allowing her to finally be able to speak up to a subject that gave her so much pain. I believe her prayers are what have carried us all through. Writing as Lilly B. has freed me as well. I am now able to talk freely about my past and that bit by bit has allowed the scars to heal from the inside out.

I don’t know what path the Lord is putting you on.  But I do know that if the “Right Now” Your Story, Your Value, Your Action to End Human Trafficking” conference is something that has been in the back of your mind, now is the time to attend. You may need healing from abuse or you may be the ministry tool God uses to set someone else free. The knowledge you gain from this conference could be what prevents your own child or grandchild from being deceived into this sexual slave trade. The belief that someone is going to steal your child off the street is one of the lies that allows this kind of thing to continue. The fact is that most youth are brought into this lifestyle because of someone they trusted, a person that befriended them at school, a trusted family member or the fear of a mistake being exposed or sibling being hurt. I encourage you to attend and see that this is one step that God could be using you to turn evil plans to good and to give someone else the hope they need to be free. You can register online at www.eventbrite.com A.C.T. United Right Now conference.

It’s OK to Tell

By Lilly B.

@2/17/2019

Years of the Secret had burdened me down

In my heart, I longed to be found.

Will someone listen, please just hear!

I just want to be loved and held near!

Unconditional love, not pain and strife…

I need to be free from this abused life

A Grandpa, a teacher, a close friend,

Broken trust forever, just because they were men.

Used and abused they stole what was mine,

In this little girl’s eyes, they took away the shine.

They stole her innocence, made fear life inside,

Wanting to be invisible, fear wanted me to hide.

“It’s our secret, don’t ever tell,”

Are the words that made life a living hell.

Putting hands and things where they don’t belong,

In a poor defenseless child, it was so wrong.

The guilt, the shame and all that pain

Suffering through life, carrying the blame.

Then I met Jesus, He set me free,

The one who loves me unconditionally.

He himself was beaten, bled and died,

All for me so I could heal inside.

It wasn’t my fault and not my choice,

But with Jesus, I have gotten back my voice.

I can forgive those who used and abused me

I can move forward in life as whole and completely.

See it’s ok to tell, the secret is out…

I’m no longer a prisoner of all that doubt.

I am a worthwhile person, Jesus died for me.

I am his workmanship, his specialty.

I am a child of the King who cried and held me tight,

As the abusers tried to control my plight.

They didn’t know the power of Jesus blood,

It has set me free and rushed in like a flood.

He covered me, he healed my pain,

So I could share and you could gain.

So I bind all that fear and pain in Jesus Name!

It’s ok to tell and get rid of the shame.

What is in Your Garden?

 

beautiful bloom blooming blossom
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I have a deep love for growing flowers and I have to admit that I can overspend in the spring. One of the things I like to do is find a poor leftover perennial at the end of the season on clearance. Usually they are pretty beat up with lots of dead leaves. I take it home and find a special place in my yard and baby it as much as I can, then I wait. Most of the time, my effort pays off the next spring. It is always fun to see those once neglected flowers blossom into what they were meant to be.

The one challenge I have is I don’t like to weed. It always seems to be a daunting task that I put off as long as I can. There have been a couple of years that it doesn’t get done. Guess what, the plants survive and still thrive; they just are smaller and not as beautiful because of the weeds. This year I was able to get some weeding done in my flower beds but not all. So I donned my gardening hat and went out to finish the massive weeding of the rest of my flower beds.

As I was weeding, the Lord spoke to my heart. “You have weeds growing in the depths of your heart. They hold you back from what I want you to be.”

Those weeds are unhealthy addictions that can stunt our growth. For some it could be drugs or alcohol.  Still for others, an addiction to shopping, to abusing others or yourself, fast cars, expensive lifestyle. For me, I struggle with going to food as my comfort and thinking I am never good enough.

Yesterday I decided the weeding had to be done.  I mixed up some homemade weed killer with vinegar and wanted the easy way out. I thought I could walk around the house and spray the weeds and they would disappear. Some did, however the larger, deeper rooted ones didn’t. Those I had to pull by hand. Some were really hard to pull, others I had to dig out. One of my perennials is a large Yucca plant. It has taken years for it to bloom. This year it was in full bloom, I had gotten rid of the weeds around it only to notice a small layer underneath of dead leaves. I lifted up the new leaves and began to pull the old ones out. They came out really easy. The one thing I noticed was that the beauty of the plant remained but buried deep down inside, hidden away was the rotten dead leaves. I couldn’t help but begin to ask questions. What roots are buried deep inside of me? Am I willing to allow the Lord to pull them out? Am I willing to let him lift up the façade of who I think I am and pull out those hidden dead leaves inside of me?

I will be honest. Beginning to write this blog has brought up many weeds in my life that I thought were pulled out. It is time for me to allow the Lord to pull the old dead leaves that are buried deep inside me out. In my experience of sexual abuse, there were many other deep rooted weeds that had to come out: fear of rejection, desperately wanting to be accepted and loved, dependence on food because it was one thing I could control when it was accessible, the belief that I wasn’t worth anything and everyone else was better than me, the anger I would stuff down inside when I was hurting and lashing out through loud ugly words to the those that loved me unconditionally. For me, I think my deepest wound was thinking I could never be good enough for God to love me. How could God have allowed those weeds to come into my life and become so big? I know now that God didn’t want those things to happen to me but he has used them to allow me to blossom into the person I am today.

Lord, thank you for allowing me to bloom where I am planted. Thank you for being the Master Gardener. Pull out anything rooted in me that is not from you. Heal the hurts from the past and help me to fertilize my life with prayer and your Word so nothing else grows in my heart but you. Pull out the dead leaves that are hidden underneath me and replace them with the true beauty that you meant me to be. Cleanse my mind of the things others have told me I was and give me a new picture of who you meant for me to be so that I can bloom and grow in your garden. Allow me the privilege of sharing my beauty with others, so they can bloom too.

What is in your garden?

By Lilly B.

Trust Your Gut

tilt shift lens photography of woman wearing red sweater and white skirt while holding a boy wearing white and black crew neck shirt and blue denim short
Photo by Nicholas Githiri on Pexels.com

One of the hardest things for me to learn in my life has been to trust my gut. I trusted my Mom, my Dad, my Grandma and my Grandpa, my teacher, my friend. These are the people that abused me or allowed abuse to happen to me. None of those worked out well. The one thing that has been bothering me for years was how my Mom and Grandma could have stood up for me.

We had just moved to a new state and my son went into 3rd grade. I was nervous about it but kept covering him in prayer. He didn’t care for school, but I kept praying with him and it was going ok. He had good days and not so good days but I attributed it to being new. December hit and my son started talking about if I made him go to school he would commit suicide. That day I called in sick to work as it was obvious my son was terrified, I could see it in his eyes. I kept him home that day. When my husband got home from work, we sat down and talked about it. I called in sick for as many days as I had and told my boss I was giving notice. I kept my son home from school and we went to our church and enrolled him in the church school, starting after Christmas break. We didn’t have the finances to pay for the church school tuition, but I knew God would work it out. He did! I never found out what terrified my son so much at the other school but I believed him and took action. How does a 3rd grader think about suicide? How does a small child get so terrified that he wants to die? Who or what had stolen his joy and my happy go lucky boy was now locked in his room, depressed, the sparkle gone out of his eyes? These were the questions I asked myself. January came and he started at the new school. Slowly but surely, the spark returned in my son’s eyes. The talk of killing himself ended and the joy returned. It took time and a lot of patience from his new teacher. (I had told her what had happened). I can honestly say, as a Mom, I knew I had to believe my son and protect him. It was one of the best decisions I ever made. I had stepped out in faith and trusted my gut.

So how could my Grandma and Mom walk away and not protect me, not believe me? These are questions I asked God for a long time. I have no answers. I think maybe it was the culture at the time, possibly fear. Fear of losing their home and children, (being stay at home moms), not knowing what would happen to them if they spoke up, are my guesses. Unfortunately, for me, because I wasn’t believed, I put blame on myself. I was little and kept trusting the people that hurt me the most. I was stripped of my intuition and thought I wasn’t good enough to make decisions for myself. That has taken a long time to heal.

I look back now and realize that God did protect me and I did stand up for myself, although for years I didn’t realize it. Whenever my family went to visit my grandparents, I made sure I was never alone with my Grandpa. I would ask my Mom to go along with me to the basement where the only bathroom was so as not to be cornered by Grandpa. I made sure I always had people around me and that worked to keep my Grandpa at bay.

It took me a long time to learn how to trust my gut and say no if the stirring in my belly made me sick or feel bad. I know now that the Holy Spirit leads me into all truth and teaches me all things. Many times, I remind myself that I am a child of the King, and that I have the mind of Christ and the wisdom of God is formed within me. It is important for me to let go of the past, not wallow in trying to figure out the whys and how comes, but rather focus on the present and what God says about me. I have learned by trusting God, I can make good decisions. I can trust my “gut” (aka Holy Spirit) to get me through any challenges I face. It is ok to trust my gut and to speak up, to say no, to not trust other people who give me a sick feeling. God is my refuge and my strength. That is the only one I trust. His Holy Spirit inside me is who will lead me into truth. Trust your gut!

Lilly B.

Grandmother, Mother, Survivor, Child Advocate, Writer, and Blogger for A.C.T. United

 

Healing Comes in Layers

Healing image

Several weeks ago, I threw my back out. I went to the doctor twice and got muscle relaxers once and a referral to physical therapy the second time; both with no resolve to my pain. I knew I was to go to my local chiropractor. I called and got in the very same day. The pain was so bad that I couldn’t sit and could hardly walk. She did what was called “soft tissue work” and I left her office with almost no pain. By the next visit the pain had moved down into my lower back. The following week, the pain had moved into my knee and shin. My doctor told me this wasn’t unusual. Because of my pain, my body had tightened up in many areas to compensate. She said that now that we were releasing the tight muscles the pain would pop up in the other areas that had been stressed because of the original pain. It has taken many weeks and the pain has traveled many places as my doctor has been working to release the tight muscles “chain” that eventually caused so much pain in my back. Layer after layer, slowly the pain has ceased and my body is returning to normal.

For me, this has been a huge life lesson in my spiritual pain from abuse. It has taken years to peel back the layers of pain from my abuse. Some of the different layers I have had to release are rejection, doubt, feelings of low self-esteem, feelings of being worthless, not valued, not being able to speak up for myself, shame, guilt, helplessness and being a victim. The layers have come off slowly and one at a time. I feel relief and think I am done and another issue pops up.

It takes time for a body to heal and even more time for the heart to heal.

I still hear that gruff voice whispering in my ear, “Let Grandpa make you feel good, but don’t tell anyone. This is our secret. You wouldn’t want anyone else to get hurt would you?” I would have given my life to protect my two younger sisters from all the pain I endured from this man who was supposed to love and protect me. Now I can truthfully use the Word of God to break that stronghold. The Bible tells me that “His sheep hear his voice and the voice of a stranger they will not follow.” The only voice I need to listen to is that of my Lord and Savior. He is my protector, He will not let any evil befall me or any plague come near my dwelling for the Lord has given his angels charge over me and they keep me in all my ways and in my path is life and there is no death.”

Like the chiropractor slowly releases the pain that has stressed my body, so the Word of God heals my heart.

My prayer for you is that you too will seek out God’s promises to combat the evil one that lies, kills and destroys. It is the sword of the spirit which is the Word of God that can quench the fiery darts that the evil one whispers in our ears to keep us from having hope. Our hope is built on nothing less than the rock of Jesus Christ. He alone is our hope. The victory has already been won.

Lilly B.

Grandmother, Mother, Survivor, Child Advocate, Writer, Amazing Person! and blogger for A.C.T. United

It’s OK to Tell

Years of the Secret had burdened me down

In my heart, I longed to be found.

Will someone listen, please just hear!

I just want to be loved and held near!

Unconditional love, not pain and strife…

I need to be free from this abused life

A Grandpa, a teacher, a close friend,

Broken trust forever, just because they were men.

Used and abused they stole what was mine,

In this little girl’s eyes, they took away the shine.

They stole her innocence, made fear live inside,

Wanting to be invisible, fear wanted me to hide.

“It’s our secret, don’t ever tell,”

Are the words that made life a living hell.

Putting hands and things where they don’t belong,

In a poor defenseless child, it was so wrong.

The guilt, the shame and all that pain

Suffering through life, carrying the blame.

Then I met Jesus, He set me free,

The one who loves me unconditionally.

He himself was beaten, bled and died,

All for me so I could heal inside.

It wasn’t my fault and not my choice,

But with Jesus, I have gotten back my voice.

I can forgive those who used and abused me

I can move forward in life as whole and complete.

See it’s ok to tell, the secret is out…

I’m no longer a prisoner of all that doubt.

I am a worthwhile person, Jesus died for me.

I am his workmanship, his specialty.

I am a child of the King who cried and held me tight,

As the abusers tried to control my plight.

They didn’t know the power of Jesus blood,

It has set me free and rushed in like a flood.

He covered me, he healed my pain,

So I could share and you could gain.

So I bind all that fear and pain in Jesus Name!

It’s ok to tell and get rid of the shame.

By Lilly B.

2/2019

I am not sure why I agreed to volunteer to write this blog. I just knew I had to. I attended an A.C.T. United, (Anti Child Trafficking) conference recently and wrote “It’s OK To Tell” shortly after. I am retired and this conference was the first time anyone told me it was OK to tell. The process to volunteer to write this blog has been slow. I have thought about it and prayed about it. When I was young, after many years of abuse, I got the courage to tell at the age of 11. My parents were the ones I told. My Dad immediately flew in a rage and declared I was lying about his Dad, my grandfather, and I was never to talk of it again. I found out many years later that my Mom knew I was telling the truth. My grandfather had also tried to abuse her, his own son’s wife. She was young and had five small children, she would tell me many years later. She was afraid if she had stood up for me that my Dad would have kicked her along with us kids out of the house. She was probably right.

The biggest doubt I had about writing this blog was that I wasn’t trafficked. Or was I? I wasn’t kidnapped and I wasn’t forced to be abused by predator after predator. It was my very own family that allowed the abuse.

My grandmother caught my grandfather in the act of molesting me. With a tear in her eye, she turned and walked away. When my grandpa was done, he yelled at her to come and clean up my mess.

I have found out through the years that he molested many of my cousins and even his own daughters. One of my cousins, who spent much time at my grandparents’ house, told me that my grandmother would place her in bed with our grandpa and close the bedroom doors. Many times I felt like I was being sacrificed to my grandpa so that my mom and my grandma wouldn’t have to be abused.

Many years later and after much counseling, I was able to face my grandpa and tell him I forgave him. I knew if I wanted God to forgive me, I had to forgive him. Tears streamed down his face as I spoke to him. He had, by that time; contracted Alzheimer’s and had been totally unresponsive for months. That day he responded to me and I had the privilege to pray with him to accept Jesus. I also confronted my Dad for not believing me. My heart went out to him as he admitted that he knew I hadn’t lied. I believe he saw his own sister’s abuse growing up and couldn’t admit to the fact that his daughter had also been abused. If he had believed me when I told, he would have had to admit about all the horrors he saw when he was growing up.

There were other abusers. A fifth grade teacher and a friend that I had trusted both added to the shame and guilt I carried for many years. The Bible tells me that “He who the Son has set free is free indeed,” I knew that my abuse had placed me in a prison door, but when I accepted Jesus the cell door was open. It has taken me years to have the courage to walk out of that cell.

I would like to invite you to journey with me as I take one step at a time out of my cell, (the walls I built to protect myself from being hurt again) and learn that my abusers finally have no control over how I live my life.

I hope to share many resources with you about sex trafficking as well as family abuse. I wish that at the age of 11, I would have had someone to tell me that if my parents didn’t believe me to keep telling until someone listened. It would have saved me from many challenges over my lifetime. Today is a new day. Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow may never happen. I am choosing to take that first step out of my cell. It is OK to tell, and keep telling until someone finally listens.

Lilly B.

2019 Mission to Thailand: Called to Love

Greetings!

My name is Saysha, I am the Youth Aware Program Coordinator for A.C.T. United. I am a mom to an amazing four year old girl, Noelle, who keeps me laughing and on my toeSaysha mission letter photos! I am also a preschool teacher at Christ Victorious Early Childhood Center. Nine years ago during my first year of college, God started speaking to me about human sex trafficking. Although my heart breaks for all victims of human trafficking around the world, Asia has really pulled at my heart strings.

With God’s timing and my obedience by saying “yes” to this calling on my life, I have the incredible opportunity to travel to Thailand for 3 weeks this summer (June 18th through July 11th) with friends of A.C.T. United, Courageous Love Thailand. This organization establishes safe and healthy homes for abandoned, high-risk, and trafficked children in Thailand. I will be in Nan bringing my early childhood education skills to teach English and all the love that God has placed in my heart for the children and people of Southeast Asia. I will also be spending time in Bangkok and Chiang Mai becoming familiar with the culture, building relationships with people, and meeting with other anti-trafficking leaders. I’m very excited that our work and partnership here will continue! I will be assessing the cost to return and build a chicken coup and purchase chickens that will provide a sustainable food source on the restoration home property.

“It is a personal dream of mine and goal for A.C.T. United to see children across the nations empowered to protect themselves from sexual exploitation and trafficking.”

God has called me and prepared me to work for the prevention of child and teen sexual exploitation. I was once a teen girl who didn’t know her value and worth. Having been sexually and physically abused, exploited, and almost a victim of sex trafficking; to becoming empowered, knowing my value and worth, knowing I am loved, and being healed; there is a tenderness and hope I have to share with others.

Thank you to everyone who is supporting me financially and through prayer! Financially, I am still in need of $1,570 to cover travel expenses and to purchase needed supplies for the children. If you would like to give financially please donate by June 18th :

  1. Online at http://actunited.org/index.php/donate/
  2. Or you can send cash or check, written to “A.C.T. United”, memo “Thailand,” to:

A.C.T United

C/O COTH

950 Trumble Street

Chaska, MN 55318

Also, please consider partnering with me in prayer for the following:

  1. Prayer for Noelle and myself as we have never been apart from each other for this long. (que the tears)
  2. Prayer for those who will be taking care of Noelle: Scott (her dad), Jessica (grandma), Barb (great grandma), and Beth and Bob (grandparents).
  3. Safe and smooth travels including no issues with lost luggage.
  4. SPIRITUAL protection. Satan does not want us to walk out our destiny or to see children and cultures free of sexual exploitation and abuse.
  5. PHYSICAL protection from sickness, injury, heat, and King Cobras (lol!)

Thank you for your partnership and support! Stay connected on our Facebook page, at Facebook.com/connect.actunited, if you wish to share a prayer or word of encouragement and to hear updates from Thailand!

Sincerely,

Saysha

Youth Aware Program Coordinator, A.C.T. United

#unitedwewin #actunited #courageouslove #thailand #endhumantrafficking #kidsmatter

 

Prevention Works!

classroom

The 2018 Trafficking in Persons Report from the US Department of State has been released. This year their study focused on prevention and how communities can proactively address human trafficking. The Secretary of State, Michael R. Pompeo, in part stating:

“Proactive community-driven measures strengthen our ability to protect our most vulnerable and weaken a criminal’s ability to infiltrate, recruit, and exploit. I have experienced firsthand that individuals closest to a problem are often the best resource to solving it, which is why the Department prioritizes equipping and empowering front-line civil society leaders.”

To read the full report, you can find it online at https://www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/2018/

At A.C.T. United we have known the impact of frontline grassroots prevention, its how we started, and its what we continue to do!

Here are words from ACT United Founder and Lead Training Facilitator, Jessica Bartholomew:

If you have attended a training or been in a conversation with me, you have most likely heard me passionately say:

“We will not end human trafficking by responding to it, we will end human trafficking by getting ahead of it in prevention!”

A.C.T. United has been in the fight to end human trafficking, specifically the sex trafficking of children and youth in the United States, in a model of prevention since we began in 2015. Prevention work has had it’s hurdles. But I am neither discouraged nor stopped by hurdles! As a police officer, I got to show the importance and impact of my work through number of arrests, amount of convictions, search warrants conducted, evidence collected, guns recovered, drugs seized, and victims of crime helped. Statistics are a language everyone can understand and justify the need and support for an effort. People want to put their resources where it has the greatest impact. Me too! But how do you measure prevention? How do I measure how many teens will not accept a friend request from a stranger with bad intentions on social media, or say no to attending a house party that was a set up for sexual assault or trafficking, or make the right choice at a critical moment in life because they saw the signs I talked about? How many times, per each teen, in their life time, will their decisions be altered, keeping them from harm, as a result of hearing our Youth Aware exploitation prevention program at school or church? How many kids will come forward to their parents, teachers, or police about sexual abuse, assault, or trafficking when I leave the presentation? I will never know and be able to measure the impact of NO harm, NO trafficking, NO sextortion, NO violence, and NO injury happening to a young person because of prevention education. What I do know is prevention works! I know the students who tell us about their own situations or were able to help a sibling or friend being exploited as a result of our prevention program. I know the youth in our program who design and lead awareness projects spreading prevention education to others in their school or community. I know survivors who say if they would have known the signs of predator grooming and an abusive relationship maybe things would have been different for them. I also know that if you have ever seen the effects of sex trafficking, sextortion, or child pornography on a valuable young life, you will also be compelled to get ahead of this devastation in prevention. Every 35 year old trafficker was once a 6 year old boy or girl, every adult who buys a child for sex slavery had people in their path before that final decision, and every child deserves for us to invest in prevention that protects them from harm, promotes their health, and encourages them to tell someone if they need help. If you want to have the greatest impact on kids, teens, families, and our communities, I encourage you to partner with us, or others, who are working in prevention! This is the greatest investment!

To join us in the proactive fight against the human trafficking of children and teens, contact us at connect.actunited@gamil.com and request:

  • Awareness and prevention training for your staff, group, business
  • To bring Youth Aware teen prevention education into your schools, church, or youth organization
  • A list of current volunteer needs
  • To join our Prayer Team and receive the monthly prayer and praise report

You can also…

  • Keep us fighting on the frontlines with your financial support by going to http://www.actunited.org and click on donate!
  • Follow us for current news, safety information, upcoming events, resources, and online training videos at:
    • Facebook.com/connect.actunited
    • Instagram@actunitedmn
    • You Tube/ACT United or copy link www.youtube.com/watch?v=nnYhGEK_iCE

#UNITEDWEWIN

 

“They Got Me” : American Child Sex Trafficking

help-child-in-pencil

During my law enforcement career I spent about 5 years in an undercover vice unit doing stings and operations to address violent crime in the urban city I worked for. My work focused on narcotics, guns, and street robberies that were on a statistical high at the time. Our city, population 400,070, had 1 vice unit for each of its 5 precincts as well as 3 city wide vice units for Narcotics, Gangs, and Street Crimes that often worked with our Federal partners.

As a police officer you get very familiar with what your city looks like, who lives where, and what looks “normal” for your area of patrol. You also get very good at spotting and reading behaviors that indicate current or preparation for criminal activity, someone who needs help, medical conditions, or someone who is lost and could use some directions. There are other people and professions, outside of law enforcement, that also have this ability, to notice and discern behavior. As a police officer, with our observation of certain behaviors, we have a responsibility to act for the protection of people, the community, and to serve those in need. I have to confess I had an advantage starting my career, because I grew up in the same urban area I now worked as a cop. I started the job knowing the neighborhoods, a lot of the people, and both the strengths of a community as well as the crime trends and criminal hotspots. I had a pretty good eye for what was “normal” activity in these neighborhoods. However, it doesn’t take long for anyone to figure all this out when patrolling and spending time on the street.

Driving through my hometown streets, on duty one night, something caught my attention. It was a week night, about midnight, in a residential area, with not a soul on the street except for these three individuals. A girl who looked about 13 years old walking with a purse and cell phone and two adult males, in their 30’s, walking together, behind her, at a distance that struck me as close enough to not lose sight, but far enough to not look like they were with her. I was working with a partner and we stopped our car to watch for a moment. When they got to the next intersection, with four different directions to go, the girl turned left to go west, and the males followed right behind her. It didn’t take much intuition to notice that at the very least this girl was in violation of the city curfew, but making contact with her for that purpose, would prove or disprove my hunch that this girl was in a much deeper situation.

We approached and made contact with her. The two adults took a sudden turn and started walking away.  She said she did not know the males who were following her which may or may not have been true. She was definitely not interested in a conversation with the police, but agreeable enough to sit in the car with us and talk about violating curfew and to find out who she was and how to get her home.

She told us she was 14 years old and gave us a name that she spelled out for us. When nothing came back under her name in a couple different system checks, which would not be uncommon for a 14 year old who usually does not have a state ID or driver license yet, but my gut was saying that this was not her real name. I ran the name she gave me a couple more times, confirming the spelling, but nothing under that name was found. Then like perfect timing, as to solve the mystery for me, her cell phone rang. Looking down at her phone to see who it was, she quickly answered and said, “They got me…OK” and then hung up.

“They got me” ?? “OK” ?? Not quite a normal way to answer your phone. From these words, to whoever was on the other end of that line, I knew that there was someone, not a concerned parent or guardian, in charge of her whereabouts. Someone who never once asked to clarify, “Who are they?”, but knowing she was caught by “they”, only gave some sort of instruction to her, to which she responded, “OK”.

I now had a child on the street, late at night, under an unknown persons control or oversight, and I was unable to identify her. In an attempt to find out who she was, a phone number for a mom or dad, and to look into what kind of situation she might be in, I asked for her cell phone. When she handed me the phone, the first thing I saw was a photo of a naked adult male sent to her in a text message that said, “Where are you? Hurry up.” Apparently she had passed the phone too quickly without getting out of the text message she was about to send back to him. Or perhaps, God in His plan to rescue this girl made sure I saw the photo. If I did not see this photo, I would have had nothing to confirm my suspicion that I had more than a girl out past curfew.

Although this was not my introduction to knowing and understanding human sex trafficking, this would be my first criminal case as a Police Officer. It all started with a girl out on the street past curfew and a feeling in my cop gut that something deeper, more ominous was going on. The case would end one year later, with the arrest, prosecution, and prison time for a 24 year old male sex trafficker who had been selling her since she was 12 years old.

 So, who is this girl? And how does this happen? It’s easier to believe that a market for child sex slaves only happens in some dark corners of the earth away from civil society, in places we will never go to, or ever see in our life time. It’s easier to believe that there are no victims, but individuals, who for greed and sexual desire, have chosen a career of sex for money, making business arrangements, that mutually satisfy the needs of the one selling and the one buying. It’s easier to believe that those who buy children are the Boogey man and would look horrifyingly obvious if they ever tried to live among us in normal society.

What’s not easy to understand is that a girl, who lives in suburban America, with her mom and little brother, attends public school, and plays at the park, is being sold on the weekends by a family member to a dozen different men per day in the Midwest Heartland of the United States. And that her story represents the situation for many children, both boys and girls, being sold right under our noses in America. 

It would take months of investigation and several conversations with her to build a relationship and gain the trust she needed to want my help and to disclose the details of the betrayal, abuse and violence she had endured. And it wasn’t until her trafficker refused to spend time with her that did not involve selling her to a customer for profit that she decided to tell me who he was.

She is a Midwest American girl. She lived with her biological mother and younger brother in a nice house in a first ring suburb of the cities. She attended public school and had good friends. In her preteen years, like all girls, she began to struggle through the new developmental challenges like puberty, peer acceptance, and self-esteem. For her unfortunately, her ability to navigate these challenges was effected by loss, grief, and the rejection of a Dad who was no longer involved in her life. This had created a hole in her heart longing to be filled by a Fathers love and acceptance.

Her mother also had a similar hole in her heart and the desire to fill it with a relationship. By the age of 12, her mother found a boyfriend to fill her hole, or should I say, he found her. He found a single mom, with a nice home, a need for love and attention, who had a beautiful, young daughter who also needed attention from a male fatherly figure. But it would not be him that would fill the daughter’s need, he was just the doorway into the family, it would be his adult son. Mom’s “boyfriend” would choose mom on purpose, lay on the loving comments and affection, move in to the household quickly, and introduce his son, the new step brother, to the family.

Her step brother was 22, charming, attractive, and a full time sex trafficker. He made thousands of dollars a month selling young girls just like her. His grooming and manipulation of her into a relationship started right away. She was 12 years old and soaked up all the attention, “dates”, rides in his new expensive car, and kind words he would tell her. His attraction to her and the blooming romantic relationship would be their secret. It was all a lie, but not to her.

It would only be a couple months of grooming her into a loving “relationship” with him that he introduced the idea of her working “with” him in the business; in “the life.” She would be his favorite and most protected. She would be the best because of her beauty and personality. He would be so proud of her. “Together” they would make tons of money and live a rich and daring lifestyle.

The first time she was sold was out of a hotel room in the suburban family town of Roseville MN at age 12. Multiple men throughout Minnesota would come to buy a half hour of sexual slavery with a 12 year old girl. Afterward, he comforted her, spent money on her, and told her she did great.

Over the next two years she would be sold every weekend and sometimes for two weeks straight out of several hotels in Minnesota cities including Roseville, St Cloud, and Brooklyn Park. Her “Boyfriend”/Step Brother/Father figure whom she called “Daddy” would also drop her off and pick her up for outcall services at the homes of men who had ordered her online.

Over the years she was sold to men throughout Minnesota and some who came from out of state for a chance to meet a child for sex in a city where no one would recognize them. Most of them had careers, wives, and children so the stakes of discovery were high. She collected about a dozen of their personal cell phone numbers so they could exchange pornographic photos via text message and have direct access to her. It gave her a false, but felt, sense of power over her situation by having them go directly to her and not through Daddy.

She would meet other girls he was selling. Through a mix of jealousy, that she was not the only girl, and yet comfort, that she was not the only girl being sold, these other girls became her teachers in the sex trafficking game, mentors for survival and her “friends.” There were thoughts of leaving early on when the plan of being together started looking like a lie. She felt more like property and the money was never hers to keep. However, the idea of escape was gone when sensing her unrest, he made her watch him physically beat another girl and hold a gun to her head, for disobeying him. A girl who had been with him longer, had been kind to her, and whom she considered a friend. Daddy also reminder her, that if she disobeyed, or left, there was always her little brother.

Daddy put a tattoo on her shoulder of his “stable” name.  A “stable” is what a pimp calls his collection of human slaves, like a barn of animals, and the tattoo is a branding that lets other traffickers and pimps know that he or she already has an owner.

He also gave her plenty of drugs and alcohol to keep her feeling like she was older than she was, a false sense of freedom from authority and power, to get her through the pain and sometimes torture fantasies played out on her body by the buyers, and to keep her coming back to medicate a growing addiction.

After a week or weekend of being abused, raped, often hungry and dehydrated, she would get dropped off at home Sunday night or at public school Monday morning. All that the police were told by family was that she had runaway and with her return she would be taken off the warrant list and given a court date. To the court, she was one of many teens who did not heed the warning to stay safe and off the streets and listen to her mother. To her teachers she was chronically tardy or absent, a distraction in class, and could not stay on task. As for her mother, I would see in time, she had made the decision that filling her own hole with a boyfriend was more important than the abyss this man and his son were digging in her daughters’ life.

At age 14, it was at the home of a buyer she would decide to make an escape. Daddy dropped her off with a man, at his north suburban Minnesota home, who had ordered her through an online escort ad offering a “New” Girl. (After 2 years, she was not new, but it is ad code for under age) She arrived and met the middle aged male, a fulltime Taxi driver, who locked the door behind her, and said, “Hello, you can get undressed.” After he took what he had paid for, he decided to ask her name. She refused a name, but asked if she could please use his shower and have something to eat. He allowed her to shower and eat. This stroke of humanity from him, despite the rape that preceded this kindness, compelled her to cry out for help. She told him that she was being sold against her will and did not want to be released back to the man that dropped her off. As if receiving a revelation that a 14 year old child would not be a willing participant in slavery, rape, and violence, he agreed to help her escape. While the trafficker flashed a pistol at the front door demanding she come outside or they both would be dead, the buyer snuck her out the backdoor and she fled.

This is where we met. Hours after fleeing that buyers’ home, I had spotted her walking the street to another buyers’ house who offered to give her shelter for the night; shelter with a sexual price. The man who called while she was in our squad car was that buyer. He was the nude man in the photo I saw on her phone. His instruction to her when she had answered the phone and said, “They got me” was, “Well, don’t tell them about me.” She said, “OK.” He knew “they” were the police.

This 12 year old child’s ordeal in the American sex trafficking market is a common scenario for the 300,000 boys and girls vulnerable to trafficking in the United States every year. Worldwide estimates are 2.5 million children a year are victims of sex trafficking. She is in plain sight. So are the traffickers and the buyers.

Unexpectedly, after 12 years in law enforcement, I felt called back into ministry with a purpose I can see God designed since I was a kid on the same streets that I would later patrol as an Officer. In law enforcement when you rescue a child from trafficking or pornography, you see with 20/20 hindsight the vulnerabilities, life circumstances, and factors that led to a child being targeted for exploitation. You see who is in the market for buying a child. You also see who along the way had contact with this child and had an opportunity to interdict. My mission is to take this hindsight and make it your foresight; helping the church and community become aware, equipped, and deployed working together for the protection of children and youth.

Written by

Jessica Bartholomew                                                                                                                          A.C.T. United Founder and Executive Director