Most of us hear the words, “human trafficking” and think of third world countries or gritty cop dramas on television. We don’t think about it happening in our own backyard. So imagine our surprise when we received a Nice Grant submission from Jessica Evans of Purchased –– the founder of an Indianapolis organization dedicated to raising awareness around human trafficking in Indiana (Yep, in Indiana). That got our attention and we had to know more.
A quick visit to the Purchased website reveals some staggering statistics:
Human trafficking is the 2nd largest and fastest growing criminal industry.
14,500-17,500 people are trafficked into the U.S. annually.
The FBI estimates that nearly 300,000 American children are being exploited through pornography or prostitution every year.
The average age of entry into the sex trade is 13 years old.
The average global price of a human being is $90.
Human trafficking (the trade of humans, most commonly for the purposes of sexual slavery, forced labor, or commercial sexual exploitation) isn’t an obvious crime ––you have to know what to look for to spot it and the signs can easily go unnoticed, at times leading others to believe that victims are willing participants.
Purchased works along side groups like ipath (Indiana Protection of Abused and Trafficked Humans), the U.S. Attorney General's office, and other local and national organizations to build their understanding of the horrors of human trafficking and lead a crusade of awareness and education in Indiana.
In less than seven years, Jessica Evans has taken a hole in her heart, left there from a trip to Nepal where she met with girls who had been trafficking victims, and turned it into a thriving non-profit that goes into communites, and churches with awareness programs like Human Trafficking 101, and into classrooms and youth detention facilities with educational programs like My Life My Choice (for at-risk teen girls) and Empowering Youth (teen boys). In these programs, Purchased' facilitators teach youth how to recognize and avoid gender based violence and exploitation.
So what's next for Purchased? That's where Nice Grants comes in! Jessica’s Nice Grants submission made the case for helping to launch a mentorship program for Indiana victims of human trafficking. She and her team had already been interviewing potential female mentors (called Allies), and were working with another local group to identify female survivors of sex trafficking in need of support. They will pair each survivor with a mentor, and each mentor with a coach.
Jessica’s using the SmallBox Nice Grant to train the volunteers who will become mentors in the Allies program.
“This is a huge commitment.” Jessica said. “We’re pairing female community members with a girl who’s been trafficked in Indiana. We want to set them up to succeed in this relationship. Many of these survivors have never had a healthy relationship." Purchased is providing ongoing training to women who are accepted as Allies Mentors in order to help them navigate the mentor/mentee relationship, understand trauma, poverty and substance abuse, and even how to set healthy boundaries and take care of themselves.
I had the privilege to sit in on one of the Allies training sessions recently and will share more about the challenges of both survivors and their mentors in Part 2 of this post. In the meantime, feel free to nice Purchased yourself on #Giving Tuesday (or any day of the week!)