December 4, 2012: Kendall's Story of Hope
Last summer, Kendall met a 40-year-old man online who pretended to be a teenage boy and coaxed her to run away with him. The police quickly found her but, instead of being treated as a victim, Kendall was arrested and sent to a shelter. That’s where we met her, saw her potential, and fought for her release.
Within six months, Kendall’s life changed dramatically.
Kendall’s future is brighter now thanks to the support of friends like you. At FAIR Girls, we know change doesn’t happen overnight. Kendall’s dream of graduating from high school and attending college can be a reality with your help. Every contribution we receive is an investment in the future of young survivors like Kendall. Each girl who walks through our door has the power to do something great with her life, and we can’t wait to see what Kendall will be empowered to do with hers. There is no limit to what a Free, Aware, Inspired, Restored girl can do.
July 9, 2012: Join Us Now and Stop the Sex Trafficking of Girls Online
The National Association of Attorneys General has identified Backpage.com as a “hub” for human trafficking, “especially the trafficking of minors.” FAIR Girls couldn’t agree more. Nearly 100% of the victims of sex trafficking FAIR Girls has assisted this year were advertised by pimps in the Adult section of Backpage.com. In the last 12 months, the number of girls FAIR Girls has helped has more than doubled.
What Can YOU Do?FAIR Girls has taken this campaign on because we see girls in our office every single day who have been trafficked and exploited. Shutting down the adult section of Backpage.com won't end the sex trafficking of girls in America, but it will restrict a vastly growing online market. We believe it will make it harder for pimps to sell girls, which means fewer girls will be exploited.
As always, FAIR Girls relies on the generosity of individual donors to keep our safe spaces for exploited girls open, empowerment and prevention education programs running, and emergency response services available. 82% of your donation goes to direct services for girls who are at risk of being exploited or have experienced trafficking.
Thank you for your support!
Co-Founder and Executive Director
As FAIR Girls’ Russian Programs Director, I begin my days preparing for our youth empowerment workshops. Since we serve girls and teenagers who are survivors of sexual abuse, domestic servitude, and human trafficking, I’m always thinking of new ways to engage and impact this diverse group.
Today, I decide on a role-play activity to bridge the gap between cultural barriers and the everyday issues facing our survivors. Role-play is a tool to assist girls to cope with life stressors and equip them with information to avoid situations of danger in the future. I ask the girls to remember their favorite fairy tales from childhood. Not surprisingly, the most popular Russian ones are shouted first.
“Cinderella! The Snow Queen! The Scarlett Flower!” We focus on Cinderella, prompting a new participant, Maria, to speak up.
She bluntly states, “I know what it is like to experience your mother’s death and then work all the time for a father who is always drunk.”
Maria could identify with Cinderella because she was forced to clean, cook, and have sex for money with her father’s friends, all before the age of 16. Her father prohibited her from attending school and bit her as punishment. The other girls immediately offer words of support, nodding in sympathy and agreement.
The truth is, human trafficking has existed and been written about for centuries. Relating this rather complicated and nuanced phenomenon to a common fairy tale allows me to better explain human trafficking, and helps the girls to open up and share their own experiences in a therapeutic manner. I pass out crayons and paper and encourage them to draw Cinderella's story and her situation of expoitation. As we discuss the pictures I ask, "Who could the main hero call or character call on for help? What type of help did the character need? What do behavioral traits of traffickers look like, and how do they keep victims in fear and under control?" As several girls put themselves in Cinderella's situation and enthusiastically offer up thoughtful answers, I am reassured that this group is Free Aware Inspired Restored.
FAIR Girls Russian Director of Programs
April 9, 2012: Bethany Hamilton, Honorary JewelGirl Extraordinaire!
Check it out! Pro-surfer Bethany Hamilton wasn't able to join us at Pearls of Purpose but sent this awesome video sharing her message of thanks and love for the JewelGirls.
Thanks, Bethany, for accepting the Pearl Award and role of 2012 Honorary JewelGirl. You rock!
March 12, 2012: They're Here! 2012 Pearls of Purpose Tickets Now on Sale
CNN correspondent Amber Lyon and FAIR Girls Executive Director Andrea Powell at 2011 Pearls of Purpose Gala
The moment you've been waiting for...
Tickets to the 6th Annual Pearls of Purpose Gala are now on sale!
FAIR Girls invites you to our 6th annual Pearls of Purpose gala on April 3rd to celebrate the Free Aware Inspired Restored girl! Purchase your tickets today to hear from special guests, including professional surfer Bethany Hamilton (Soul Surfer), the DC JewelGirls, and Ugandan trafficking survivor Teopista Katusiime for a truly memorable event.When an exploited girl becomes a FAIR Girl she becomes a Free, Aware, Inspired, Restored girl. Learn more about our programs by visitingwww.fairgirls.org.
At age 12, Teopista was trafficked from rural Uganda and promised a good job in the city to earn money for school. Instead, she endured years of domestic slavery and sexual abuse until she was able to escape. Now at 18, Teopista is a FAIR Girls workshop leader assisting girl survivors in Uganda. Join us for her special keynote address and a night dedicated to girl empowerment!
For our friends outside the D.C. area who are unable to attend but would like to support girls like Teopista, we hope you will consider making a contribution in her honor. To learn more about Pearls of Purpose sponsorship opportunities, contact Kate Marie Grinold firstname.lastname@example.org
March 1, 2012: Program Update from Serbia
Here's Milan, little brother of Miljana and Tamara, showing off some of his "JewelBoy" jewelry.
At 10 years old, twin sisters Miljana and Tamara were growing up in an ethnically Roma community in Serbia. The girls' mother struggled to feed the them and their little brother, Milan, and they often went to bed hungry. Like thousands of Roma children, Miljana, Tamara, and Milan were born undocumented and therefore unable to receive most government assistance despite living in what the United Nations defines as “extreme poverty.”
While walking home from school one day, Miljana and Tamara were kidnapped by a man who preyed upon vulnerable Roma girls. After days of exploitation and abuse, he sold the girls to a sex trafficker in Italy. Their mother, poor as she was, fought to find her daughters and with the help of local police, the girls were found and rescued. They survived but live with the nightmares and memories of sexual abuse endured as victims of trafficking.
Shortly after their rescue, the girls were connected to FAIR Girls and our local Serbian social services partner, ATINA, who offers care and shelter to women and girl victims of trafficking. Today, Miljana and Tamara are a part of our Serbian JewelGirls art therapy economic empowerment group. And they are thriving with the support of our local staff and older girls in the group.
Miljana said that when she first joined JewelGirls she loved all of the beautiful beads so much that she could never decide which colors to choose, so she'd just use them all, making necklaces and bracelets in every color of the rainbow. Tamara says over time she's developed her own special jewelry style (and it's pretty awesome).
Everyday Miljana and Tamara demonstrate exceptional leadership as young survivors. They are trained in survivor leadership and policy advocacy. They welcome and help teach new girls who join the program how to make jewelry and about what it means to be a JewelGirl. They even welcomed their little brother, Milan, into the group because everyone agreed he needed the support and opportunity as much as the girls.
Miljana, Tamara, and Milan are still children but they continue to impress us with their strength, their joy and their belief in themselves. They are Free Aware Inspired and Restored, and we are so proud to know them.
February 16, 2012: D.C. Program Update
By Social Work Intern, Abayea Pelt
Drawing by 13-year-old D.C. public school student in a FAIR Girls workshop.
PIMPS AND ‘HO’s. “Johns” and “tricks.” Not the expected topic for an after-school workshop for middle schoolers. But as a social work intern with FAIR Girls, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit dedicated to preventing human trafficking, I am teaching these barely adolescent girls and boys about the type of trafficking that most endangers U.S. citizens and permanent residents. (FAIR stands for “free, aware, inspired, and restored.”)
Human trafficking is often portrayed as an international problem, not something that happens in the United States. But the heart-wrenching fact is that the average age of entry into prostitution and pornography for U.S. citizens and permanent residents is between 12 and 14 years old. A minor working in prostitution, pornography, stripping, or any other commercial sex work is by definition a victim of human trafficking, according to the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000. (If one is over the age of 18, he or she must prove “force, fraud, or coercion” to be considered a victim.) Some minors are sold by family members into the “life,” as it’s called. Many trafficking victims were sexually abused when they were younger. Other victims are recruited by pimps who spot them as they run to the corner store, leave school, or hang out with friends.
Runaways and homeless youth may be most vulnerable. Studies show that the majority of prostituted youth had been runaways prior to sex work, and some experts cite anecdotal evidence that youth will be approached to participate in sex work within 48 hours of running away from home. Seventy-five percent of teens involved in prostitution, stripping, or pornography have a pimp, who might initially present himself as a parent, friend, guide, or watchdog for those new to the streets, soon followed by physical and mental coercion and abuse.
Our team of educators goes into Washington, D.C., public high schools and middle schools to bring this information to young people. We teach them the basic definitions of human trafficking (both commercial sex and labor trafficking). We listen to the song “P.I.M.P.” by rapper 50 Cent, a raunchy yet accurate retelling of the typical way girls are recruited into prostitution: “She like my style, she like my smile, she like the way I talk / She from the country, think she like me cause I’m from New York / I ain’t that n---- trying to holla cause I want some head / I’m that n---- trying to holla cause I want some bread / I could care less how she perform when she in the bed / B---- hit that track, catch a date, and come and pay the kid.”
Many of the kids know the lyrics by heart, but we challenge them to think about what they mean and consider how the media might shape their understandings of pimp culture. We ask the kids to draw pictures of pimps and prostitutes to examine stereotypes. The pimps are always well-dressed, slick, with lots of money. The prostitutes are scantily dressed, bruised, with sad faces.
At the end of every lesson, we offer small cards on which the students can write a question or give us feedback. While most of the questions are general, some are more pointed. One girl wrote, “What if a friend wants to strip for money and doesn’t think there is anything wrong with that?” Another asked, “I am dating an older man just because he buys me stuff and gives me money. Does that mean I am a prostitute?” Once, a student walked out as soon as the workshop started. She disclosed that she had been sold from age 11 to 18.
FAIR Girls also provides case management to human trafficking victims and those at risk and invites teen women to participate in a twice-weekly art therapy program called JewelGirls. The jewelry they make is sold at parties where they get to practice skills in preparation for employment. Their earnings are an alternative to making money on the streets. Some of the girls say the group helps them to “stay out of trouble.”
The adults who facilitate the group provide mentorship and support. We help them organize resumes, edit essays for school, and applaud every accomplishment. Although the problem of domestic sex trafficking of minors is overwhelming, we’re committed to confronting it by providing education, economic empowerment, and a welcoming, supportive community.
The above article, "Here?" by FAIR Girls Social Work Intern Abaeya Pelt, first appeared in Sojourner Magazine. To view the article online, click here.
February 2, 2012
Dear FAIR Girls Friends,
My name is Elizabeth. I have been a JewelGirl at the FAIR Girls DC program for the last three years. I’m writing on behalf of all 200 JewelGirls in DC and all around the world!
It’s really important and I just need just a few seconds of your time. Andrea Powell helped me a lot over the years and now she needs my help and your help too. Andrea is nominated for the Diane von Furstenberg Award and from February 2nd to February 16th you can vote for her to WIN $50,000!! and it will all go to FAIR Girls so they can help more girls like me.
Andrea says this award nomination is for everyone at FAIR Girls and I think that’s true, but still, I am really, really proud of her.
Winning this award would help every girl at FAIR Girls! And I know we can win it, but we’ll need your help! All you have to do is vote vote vote today and every single day until February 16th and you can also share the link to vote with your friends on Twitter and Facebook!
I can personally say that FAIR Girls has really helped me. Three days a week, I go after school to the JewelGirls workshops. Just like the other 200 JewelGirls I have learned a lot about how to overcome exploitation, find a job, and basically just reach my dreams.
I really hope you’ll help us win this really great award! It would mean a lot to every girl at FAIR Girls!
Elizabeth and all of the JewelGirls!!!
The DVF Awards
Supported by The Diller-von Furstenberg Family Foundation, The DVF Awards aim to provide recipients with the exposure and resources needed to extend their critical efforts on behalf of women’s causes. The DVF Awards honors four recipients annually who have displayed leadership, strength, and courage in their commitment to their causes. Through their work on a diverse range of issues and initiatives, Honorees have succeeded in improving the social, economic and political standing of women, creating inspiration and momentum for enduring change in communities across the globe. Each Honoree will receive a $50,000 award from the Foundation to sustain and expand their extraordinary contributions.
January 30, 2012
Friends, by now you are aware of our campaign calling on Village Voice Media owned Backpage.com to remove the adult section from it's website. We find minors - sold for sex - on Backpage.com and we simply do not accept that a child can be sold online as a commidity, like a stereo or bicycle. Girls are not commodities. Period.
We hope you will take a moment to read this fantastic article written by Nicholas Kristof, first published in the New York Times on January 5, 2012.
By Nicholas D. Kristof
"In November, a terrified 13-year-old girl pounded on an apartment door in Brooklyn. When a surprised woman answered, the girl pleaded for a phone. She called her mother, and then dialed 911.
The girl, whom I’ll call Baby Face because of her looks, frantically told police that a violent pimp was selling her for sex. He had taken her to the building and ordered her to go to an apartment where a customer was waiting, she said, and now he was waiting downstairs to make sure she did not escape. She had followed the pimp’s directions and gone upstairs, but then had pounded randomly on this door in hopes of getting help.
Baby Face said she hurt too much to endure yet another rape by a john. She told prosecutors later that she was bleeding vaginally and that her pimp had recently kicked her down a stairwell for trying to flee.
That 911 call set in motion the arrest of Kendale Judge, then 21. Judge has pleaded not guilty to charges of sex trafficking, kidnapping, rape and compelling prostitution. He is in jail, and we haven’t heard his side of the events yet.
The episode also shines a spotlight on how the girl was marketed — in ads on Backpage.com, a major national Web site where people place ads to sell all kinds of things, including sex. It is a godsend to pimps, allowing customers to order a girl online as if she were a pizza.
Lauren Hersh, the ace prosecutor in Brooklyn who leads the sex-trafficking unit there, says that of the 32 people she and her team have prosecuted in the last year and a half — typically involving victims aged 12 to 25 — a vast majority of the cases included girls marketed through Backpage ads.
“Pimps are turning to the Internet,” said Hersh. “They’re not putting the girls on the street so much. Backpage is a great vehicle for pimps trying to sell girls.”
Attorneys general from 48 states wrote a joint letter to Backpage, warning that it had become “a hub” for sex trafficking and calling on it to stop running adult services ads. The attorneys general said that they had identified cases in 22 different states in which pimps peddled underage girls through Backpage.
The attorneys general cited a 15-year-old girl who was being forced to have sex with men last year in Dorchester, Mass. The pimp marketed the girl through Backpage.
But Backpage isn’t budging. Indeed, it has fought back with personal attacks on those, such as Ashton Kutcher, who have linked it to human trafficking.
Steve Suskin, legal counsel to Village Voice Media, gave me a lengthy statement in which he argued that the company is already cooperating closely with law-enforcement authorities. He cited a 16-year-old girl in Seattle who was rescued as a result of a tip the company had made.
“Censorship will not rid the world of exploitation,” Suskin asserted.
It’s true that there’s some risk that pimps will migrate to new Web sites, possibly based overseas, that are less cooperative. But, on balance, that’s a risk worth taking. The present system is failing. Pimps aren’t the shrewdest marketers, and eliminating a hub for trafficking should at least chip away at the problem.
Backpage suggests that it is battling censors and prudes. In fact, what drives it seems to be greed. In their letter, the attorneys general said that Backpage earns more than $22 million annually from prostitution advertising.
On Backpage, the pimps claim adult ages for the girls they market, but Hersh scoffs. “I see 19,” she said, “and I immediately think 13.”
“I’m not seeing a lot of cases where there’s not coercion,” she added. “The average age where a girl is forced into prostitution is 12 to 14. And most of these 16- or 17 year-olds are being run by pretty vicious pimps.”
While there are no reliable figures for human trafficking, the more we look, the more we find. The Brooklyn district attorney, Charles J. Hynes, says that in the year before he set up a sex-trafficking unit in June 2010, his office prosecuted no trafficking cases. Since then, the office has become a national model, indicting 32 people, with 10 convictions and no acquittals so far.
Among those rescued was Baby Face, who had run away from home in September. Judge allegedly found her on the street, bought food for her and told her that she was beautiful. Within a few days, he had posted her photo on Backpage and was selling her five to nine times a day, prosecutors say. When she didn’t earn enough money, he beat her with a belt, they add.
When Baby Face ran away from her pimp and desperately knocked on that apartment door in Brooklyn, she was also in effect pounding on the door of the executive suites of Backpage and Village Voice Media. Those executives should listen to her pleas."
To view the article as sourced, link here.
January 13, 2012
2011 was a great year for Free Aware Inspired Restored Girls.
We met and served 245 girl survivors of exploitation and trafficking; we taught 1,800 teens how to recognize, prevent, and escape situations of exploitation; and we trained 875 social workers, foster parents, and police officers how to identify and assist a teen victim of trafficking.
In 2011, our very first JewelGirl and trafficking survivor, Biljana, shared her courageous story in front of 300 people at our annual Pearls of Purpose gala; we testified on Capitol Hill in defense of a survivor's right to comprehensive healthcare services; we had our very first JewelGirls sales party in Serbia; we began establishing a network of partners for our newest program in Montenegro; we re-branded and changed our name from "FAIR Fund" to "FAIR Girls" - standing for Free Aware Inspired Restored Girls; we served as co-chair of the training committee of the D.C. Anti Trafficking Task Force and administered monthly trainings for the D.C. Police Academy; we joined 51 Attorneys General, 52 NGO partners, and 36 clergy in advocating for an end to online sexual exploitation of minors; we worked with the Oprah Winfrey Network and Lisa Ling to show America how trafficking of American girls can happen right here in the nation's capital; and we watched our incredible girls speak out to the media, fall in love, get married, find jobs, go to college, and just be fun every day teenage girls!
2012 has big shoes to fill, but we're on it.
Our resolutions for the new year have us very excited. Here are a few of them below!
We, FAIR Girls, resolve to work as hard as we can to make sure that by the end of 2012...
200 teen girl survivors of exploitation have received compassionate care, including counseling, emergency housing, assistance in finding legal and medical support, resume building and job placement, educational attainment support, and a sense of family and community at FAIR Girls
1000 teen girls and boys in high schools and youth shelters have participated in our Tell Your Friends workshop and have learned how to keep themselves safe from sexual exploitation and trafficking
1000 law enforcement officers, teachers, and social workers are better able to identify and assist victims of trafficking having attending a FAIR Girls training
A law, inspired by Daisy, will have passed in Washington, D.C. ensuring that all missing teenage girls are considered "critical missing" and have access to FAIR Girls and our partners' services when they are found
2000 hours of art therapy and economic empowerment workshops will have helped inspire and restore more than 125 girls
If you believe in us and in our girls, please consider making a generous contribution in support of our work in 2012.
FAIR Girls Team
(Andrea, Allison, Kate Marie, Regina, Tanja, Elena, Biljana, Priya, Veronica, Aldrine, Olivia, Jordan, Abayea, Adrienne and Kiondra)
December 15, 2011
Yesterday, I had the honor of speaking before Congress during a minority day hearing called by Representative Cummings (D-MD) for the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. My testimony focused on illuminating and advocating for the full and comprehensive needs of all victims of forced labor and sex trafficking. You may view a video leading up to the hearing by clicking here.
The issue at hand was specifically that in previous years, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) funded grants that prohibited service providers from providing the full range of medical referrals, specifically reproductive health care needs such as screening for sexually transmitted diseases and contraception, that our vulnerable and often sexually traumatized victims need to receive. However, HHS now requires their grant making partners to provide this full range of services and referrals. Thus, the current hearing focused on whether or not a service provider who would deny certain referral services around reproductive health needs of trafficking victims could be able to do so and still receive federal funding under the HHS.
FAIR Girls provides comprehensive services and referrals for the young women and girls we serve who are survivors of human trafficking. Ensuring that they have quick and safe access to medical care can truly mean a matter of life and death. The majority of our clients who have been trafficked for labor and all of our clients who been sold for sex have been raped, resulting in serious medical and emotional trauma.
In my testimony, I shared the experiences of many of FAIR Girls’ young clients who were forced to have sex with between five and 20 men a night. During their enslavement, they were not permitted to choose with whom they had sex, how often they had sex, and whether or not to use contraceptives and protection against deadly STDs. They were only permitted to eat when their trafficker let them eat, they could not seek medical care, and they could not leave. Every aspect of a victim's life is controlled by their trafficker.
It is important to point out that when a victim of trafficking is forced to have sex, it is rape. Rape is a sex crime in the United States. The protocol when a victim calls the police and says that she has been raped is to immediately take her to a hospital emergency room where trained medical professionals can conduct an exam and assessment of her physical and emotional trauma. We all understand that she has been severely violated and may have been exposed to STDs and unconsented pregnancy as a result of the rape. The message is loud and clear: a rape victim needs medical attention before any other services can be administered.
All service providers have an obligation to ensure every single trafficked woman or girl we assist receives the option to obtain fully and comprehensive medical attention. In most cases, this is the most important step toward regaining a victim's freedom and sense of dignity.
Organizations that are funded by the federal government to serve victims of human trafficking must do so by protecting the rights of each victim and by focusing on a full and comprehensive recovery. During my testimony, I advocated that the current decision of HHS to ensure that their grantee partners are obligated to refer comprehensively – including for reproductive health choices – is the right decision.
December 1, 2011
A FAIR Girls Story.
After meeting FAIR Girls staff through our community outreach work, Danielle started coming to our JewelGirls art therapy and economic empowerment workshops where she found a network of friends and mentors who believed in her and provided her with the emotional support and encouragement she was not getting at home. She began to earn a modest income selling the jewelry she made and her self-esteem grew each time she presented her jewelry at JewelGirls sales parties. Danielle began to dream about her future and she set a goal of going to college.
That was three years ago. Today, Danielle is a high school senior and she is thriving. She still makes and sells jewelry through JewelGirls and she used the sales skills she developed in the program to earn a part-time job. She is still caring for her younger siblings and she has amounted to much more than just “another girl on the street.” This fall, Danielle received a letter of early acceptance from an Ivy League university!
Danielle refused to accept a life of exploitation. With the right encouragement and support network she built the foundation for a promising future. And Danielle is just one of the amazing teen women we work with at FAIR Girls. We know every girl who walks through our door has the power to do something great with her life, no matter what her past has been or what challenges she faces. We never doubted Danielle would achieve her dreams because there is no limit to what a Free, Aware, Inspired, Restored girl can do.