Street Grace is one of the pioneers in the human trafficking “space” — a $290 million illegal industry in major US cities. They are a faith-driven organization collaborating with faith, business and community leaders providing a comprehensive path to end the sexual exploitation of minors (CSEC). This crime involves the recruitment, harboring, transportation, and/or the obtaining of a child under the age of 18 for the purpose of a commercial sex act. Their Mission is to demand an end to the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children.
Breanna Fetkavich, the Director of Outreach at Street Grace, was kind enough to do a written interview with us and share about their hard work to combat sex trafficking of children:
Q: Street Grace was one of the pioneers in the fight against sex trafficking ever since this organization was established in 2009. Could you share with us what sparked the birth of this organization?
A: Street Grace was founded in Atlanta, Georgia and was birthed out of several of the faith communities there. These churches decided to join forces to fight this darkness after they became aware of the atrocities of sex trafficking happening in their city.
It quickly became evident that Street Grace wanted to focus on protecting children, as the average age of entry into sex trafficking is just 14 years old.
This group felt passionate about reducing the demand and took a “boots on the ground” approach to deterring potential buyers. In our very early days, a handful of volunteers would set up a few laptops in a conference room every Saturday. They would post fake ads offering sex online and answered the calls when people responded to those ads and told them about the commercial sexual exploitation of children. The early team wrote curriculum and started presenting to students in schools and getting this information out to as many people as possible. Since then Street Grace’s reach and influence has exploded over the years. We have utilized technology in ways we never could have dreamed of. We recently launched Street Grace offices in California, Texas and Tennessee and our policy and demand reduction efforts are present in over 15 states across the nation and will continue to grow.
Q: Could you tell us what are the ways in which Street Grace is combatting human trafficking, especially in domestic minor sex trafficking?
A: Street Grace is combatting domestic minor sex trafficking by providing a comprehensive prevention and protection approach that unites faith communities, businesses, and schools to create a web of protection around our kids. We use evidence based, demand reduction strategies to do this. Our work can be broken down in to 3, easy to remember “P’s”: PREVENTION, POLICY, and PURSUIT.
When it comes to PREVENTION, we believe that students have the ability to keep themselves and their peers safe from any kind of sexual exploitation. The way that we encourage that is by going into schools, and providing an empowerment based, and identity focused training for middle school and high school students. We also provide training for school teachers, counselors and staff. We offer similar trainings in communities, businesses and civic organizations. We even offer a program specific for parents called Keeping Kids Safe in a Digital Age.
The next P stands for POLICY. Proper legislation is essential to protect our children. Therefore, Street Grace is heavily involved in creating and facilitating the passing of legislation that protects victims and creates harsher punishment for both the buyers and sellers involved in this criminal industry.
Our last P represents PURSUIT. Specifically, pursuit of the buyers of sex. We pursue those buyers through our online, artificial intelligence program that is a chat bot we call “Gracie.” Gracie posts decoy ads on numerous websites where people are soliciting sex online. When a buyer clicks on one of the ads and initiates a text conversation, they will get a deterrence message outlining the criminal penalties they could be facing if they are caught, as well as a message linking them to resources for help and counseling for sexual addiction.
Since Gracie was launched, she has intercepted 140,000 text exchanges and disrupted over 12,100 transactions of those who would attempt to purchase sex with children. We are expecting those numbers to double in 2020.
Q: From your experience thus far, what would you say is the toughest challenge for Street Grace in fighting sex trafficking?
A: From my experience thus far, the toughest challenge for us at Street Grace is fighting to end the demand, as well as educating the community about the misconceptions they may have surrounding what human trafficking really looks like here in Texas. Historically, organizations, churches, communities, and the legislature, have focused all their time, money, and efforts on helping survivors and providing care and resources for them. While this is vital, and that work certainly must continue, we will never end sex trafficking if we fail to look at the other half of the problem, the demand.
Without a demand, sex trafficking and the commercial sexual exploitation of children ceases to exist. Therefore, at Street Grace, we are continuing to develop our demand reduction strategies and programs.
Many Texans have heard of human trafficking. But very few of them have an accurate understanding of what this issue really looks like in our communities. One of our passions is spreading truth and hope in a sensationalized and fear-driven society. We teach people that human trafficking doesn’t discriminate. Every child is vulnerable, no matter their race, socio-economic status, religion, gender, social status or physical appearance.
Q: Could you share with us a favorite story of victory Street Grace has witnessed?
A: Street Grace is a survivor informed organization. We believe it’s crucially important for those who have overcome sex trafficking to influence our initiatives. One of my favorite stories of victory involves one of our incredible survivor leaders, Kayti. Kayti was repeatedly sexually abused by a family member beginning at age 2. When she entered her teenage years, this family member began trafficking her to his friends and members of the community. Other members of Kayti’s family had no idea this was happening. She was a star player on the softball team, and a good student. Yet none of her teachers, coaches or friends suspected the horrible things that were happening to her. Kayti’s pain and exploitation was hiding in plain sight, just like so many other children across the country. Today, Kayti is a strong, respected, leader in the anti-trafficking movement. She has been personally invited to sit on the Governor’s Commission Against Human Trafficking. She speaks around the country and her story is inspiring people to step up and help keep our kids safe. According to Kayti, the opportunity to do what she is doing now, standing up for the voiceless, is what makes her story worth it.
Kayti urges everyone she meets not to be intimidated because this problem is too big, but that everyone can step up and help.
Q: What are the current needs of Street Grace? How can we, the every day person, support you in fighting human trafficking?
A: Our vision is a world where no child is sexually exploited. In order to accomplish that vision, we need the help of every day people. We believe the more people in a community that are educated about the realities of human trafficking, the safer our children will be. Therefore, if individuals can connect us to their place of worship, child’s school, philanthropic organization or business, we would love to come do a training for you! All the events we offer are completely free. We are able to offer incredible programing, as well as a first of its kind, demand-fighting program, all because of our generous donors. We have a ton of new ideas for our student programs, as well as ways to make our demand fighting program even better, and as a result, protect more kids. We need more financial support to make those ideas a reality, and we would be honored to partner with the every day person in that way! The only way we can win this fight to keep our children safe is by working together!
You can also support Street Grace by purchasing 139MADE's shirts and other products, while sharing about the wonderful work this organization is doing in the fight against human trafficking. 10% of all our sales until JUNE 12 will be donated to Street Grace. CLICK HERE TO SHOP
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