Features

Give them shelter

"Give them shelter" Continued...

Issue: "Return to war?," May 5, 2012

Perry's documentary is making rounds in the FBI and other law enforcement agencies. Some officers have told her that when they see prostitutes, they only see paperwork and a futile case. After all, the women will likely be charged, possibly imprisoned, and probably end up back on the street, Perry said. But that's changing thanks to public awareness and the film: "They told me they had no idea. Now they said they can imagine what that girl is going through and they're motivated to do what they can." Some now go over and above protocol to get the girls off the street.

Educating average citizens also is paying off. Just a few days ago, Perry talked to one girl recently rescued because her aunt saw the documentary and realized her niece was a victim. She called law enforcement. The FBI got involved and pulled the girl out.

Perry said that even when citizens and law enforcement are informed, there is no safe place to put victims. Rescues are rare, and "enthusiasm hasn't translated into resources," explained Restore director Lee.

Restore specializes in serving immigrant survivors, providing them with shelter but also with other practical needs, like ESL classes, help applying for visas, and assistance with finding safe jobs. Their goal is to see the women transition from frightened victims to confident survivors and productive citizens.

Long-term restoration housing is one of the best solutions for these women but also the hardest to provide. Rent for the Restore house in Queens costs $3,500 per month, and taking care of trafficked women takes nearly $12,000 per year, per woman.

While public education, federal law, and better law enforcement all provide a part of the solution, both Perry and Lee say it's primarily the church that needs to step in. For starters, the church can contend against the cultural influences that make prostitution a viable industry: pornography, poverty, commercialization of sex in the media, and breakdown of the family. "Our churches should stand for purity for ourselves and then for everyone else," Perry said.

Churches also can open safe houses. "I've been to so many safe houses," Perry noted, "but the government places don't feel like home. They feel like a detention center."

In New York City, some non-faith-based organizations provide help, but Lee unabashedly said he thinks Christians do it best.

"As a Christian organization, we are able to offer true hope that other organizations can't provide. We provide the option to know the Lord," he said.

And that, says Perry, makes all the difference: "The girls I met who had met Jesus were the ones who were really restored."

Tiffany Owens
Tiffany Owens

Tiffany is a correspondent for WORLD News Group.

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