Sarah was a sixteen-year-old girl. Her family life was nothing to brag about. She hated school because she felt like she didn’t fit in, but Sarah had dreams. She loved to sing. She hoped to one day become the next Beyoncé or Katie Perry. She dreamt of being discovered by a producer who would sign her to a record deal. Fueled by her dream, Sarah began posting videos of herself singing on YouTube. Then one day, it happened. A producer contacted her over Twitter. He said he loved her voice. He said he thought her songs were amazing. He said she was beautiful. No one had ever told her she was beautiful. The producer offered to take her on tour. He promised he was going to make her a star. Full of excitement and hope, Sarah ran away and met up with the man. It was only after Sarah had left the security of her friends and community that she discovered the man’s real intention is to sell her? into the commercial sex industry during every stop on the tour.
It’s hard to believe, but Sarah’s story is very much a reality for many American children and teens. It’s the story of how human trafficking affects our U.S. kids. Every day children and teens in and around Baltimore are sold for sex. This horrific reality is called Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking and is the most common form of human trafficking here in the U.S. Unlike movies and television often lead us to believe, these children are not international. This crime is not just happening overseas. A recent national study showed that between 100,000 and 300,000 children are at risk of being trafficked every year within the United States. At any given moment, the FBI says there are 700,000 predators searching the internet, looking for children to exploit.
Angela entered foster care when she was ten. Although the people around her did the best they could to help her, she could never settle. She was always in trouble. She routinely rebelled. She ran away a lot and bounced from group home to group home. Then one day Angela met a man who said he cared about her. He bought her a cell phone and new shoes – things she’d always wanted but could never afford. He told her he loved her and he wanted to take care of her. He invited her to leave the group home and come and live with him. His only requirement was that she sell her body every night for sex and give him the cash.
According to the U.S. State Department, human trafficking is the second largest criminal industry in the United States, surpassed only by the drug trade. The form that this modern day slave trade takes doesn’t always fit the narrative in our minds. Traffickers, or “Pimps” come in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes they are smooth talkers who engage youth romantically. Sometimes they offer youth security and housing in exchange for sexual favors. Sometimes traffickers are family members. What they all have in common is that they are willing to sell a child for their own profit.
The Araminta Freedom Initiative is dedicated to seeing Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking stopped in Baltimore and the surrounding regions. We believe that the solution to this horrible injustice is the Church. Our goal is to awaken, equip, and mobilize the Church and our community to stop this atrocity.
The dream of Araminta was birthed in the fall of 2010 when eight friends began to pray about how they might bring a stop to Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking. After a season of discernment and prayer, in the spring of 2012, Araminta was born.
Our name was inspired by the great abolitionist Harriet Tubman. Araminta was Harriet Tubman’s given name as a child slave in Maryland. It means “defender”. In honor of Harriet’s legacy of returning time and again to Maryland to free slaves, we believe it is our duty to defend the freedom of children. We must continue to return to the dark places where they are held captive.
We would be honored if you would join us in our mission to see Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking stopped in our region. There are three ways you can start participating today:
First, you can educate yourself about the problem. Understanding the truth behind Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking is the first step to helping end it. If you can learn what it looks like and dispel cultural myths that surround it, then you will be able to recognize it when it happens around you; and if you can recognize it, you can report it.
To learn more about Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking and how to report it, go to the Araminta website and check out our resources page. If you don’t know where to start, we recommend the book “Girls Like Us” by Rachel Lloyd. (www.aramintafreedom.org)
Second, you can join us at one of our large community events. For example, on Saturday, August 2nd, we are hosting our annual “Freedom Night at the Orioles.” Tickets to the game and Araminta t-shirts can be purchased from our website starting June 22nd. Events like this one are a great way for you to help us raise awareness.
Third, you can help fuel our work through giving financially. Araminta accepts donations through our website. We would be honored if you would consider becoming a monthly donor.
Finally, you can join the Araminta team as a volunteer. Araminta is striving to end DMST by providing four avenues for churches to engage in:
1) The prevention of the sexual exploitation of minors,
2) The creation of systemic economic deterrence that will frustrate the business of human trafficking,
3) Intervention and rescue of those held against their will
4) And the provision of aftercare initiatives that offer healing and wholeness to victims.
Currently, Araminta has eight volunteer teams working in all of these areas and we will be launching another three teams this fall. The first step to joining an Araminta volunteer team is completing our volunteer training. We offer the training once a quarter. Our next training session will be in October.
We would love for you to join our mission to stop Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking in our area. Let’s work together to make sure stories like Sarah’s and Angela’s are never repeated.