A Sex-Trafficking Survivor’s Perspective on the Kidnapped Nigerian Schoolgirls

I was 18 years old when I first felt powerless. I stood, frozen, as a gun was pointed at my head. I was demeaned and called unprintable names. The victim of abuse and sex trafficking, I was repeatedly violated and tortured and then blamed for it all.

On April 15 that powerless feeling returned. That was the day it was reported that 230 Nigerian schoolgirls were kidnapped and forced at gunpoint from the safety of their boarding school, from the safety of their families’ protection, and from the sanctity of the right to their own thoughts, dreams and bodies.

It’s been a month now, and my feeling of powerlessness continues to free fall. Yet without giving into helpless emotions, I raise a voice for the now voiceless Nigerian schoolgirls.

For me and the girls I work with at Living Water for Girls, a residential and therapeutic program for young American girls victimized by human trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation, we realize that there’s a thread that binds the victimized, whether we’re in Nigeria or Nebraska. That is why I’m convinced that Boko Haram, its lieutenants and foot soldiers have already begun exacting physical, mental, emotional and sexual abuse on them.

I know from personal experience that their suffering cannot be described or even fully comprehended by most, because there is not a suitable context in which to frame the evil that has taken up residence in their young lives.

These beautiful schoolgirls are not commodities; they are not political pawns; they are not throwaways: They are children. They are our children. We here in America are kin to them—not by lineage but by counting ourselves as members of the human race. Because of this connection, I urge Americans to remember them, and to continue to support the #BringBackOurGirls campaign, even as the news fades from the headlines.

In my work at Living Water for Girls with survivors of human sex trafficking, I talked to girls and young women about the atrocities being carried out on their sisters across the seas. They knew firsthand about these horrors. After all, many of them have been abducted, lured or tricked by traffickers (or pimps as they’re known in the streets), and suffered indescribable crimes that rendered them mindless, bodiless and spiritless, too.

A Morning No One Can Forget in Nigeria

BUJA, Nigeria — It was the middle of an April night and the girls at Chibok Government Girls Secondary School were exhausted, asleep after a long day of prepping for physics exams.

It was quiet around the dormitory, deep in the heart of Borno in northern Nigeria, where the landscape is barren and life hard.

Then shots pierced the still night, recalled Amina Gumbu, 17, a student at the school.

"The gunshots woke me out of a deep sleep," she said. "Men in uniforms came in saying there were here to rescue us: 'Wake up, girls, we've come to rescue you, we're soldiers, don't worry, you are safe. Get out and assemble close to the parade ground. We will save you.'

Michelle Obama: In Kidnapped Nigerian Girls, 'We See Our Own Daughters'

WASHINGTON (AP) — Michelle Obama on Saturday decried the kidnapping of scores of Nigerian schoolgirls who have been missing for nearly a month and used their plight to speak out for the rights of girls everywhere to get an education.

Delivering the weekly presidential radio and Internet address on the eve of the U.S. holiday honoring mothers, the first lady and mother of two said that, like millions of people around the world, she andPresident Barack Obama are "outraged and heartbroken" over the April 15 abduction of nearly 300 girls from their dormitory.

She asked the nation to pray for their safe return and stressed the importance of education.

Pimp who forced women into prostitution sent to prison -- again

A long Beach man who'd previously been sent to prison for forcing minors into prostitution was ordered Friday to spend 14 more years behind bars on similar charges.

William “Andre” Earl Flavors, 40, was accused of acting as a pimp when he took two women from Long Beach to Las Vegas, where federal officials said he forced them to work as prostitutes and abused one of them, not allowing her to leave him.

Federal officials said he beat one woman and burned her legs with cigarette.

Police: ‘Vampire’ trucker kept sex slaves

A trucker who wore ‘vampire’ teeth kept women captive as sex slaves for months at a time as he traveled the country, the Associated Press reports.

Timothy Jay Vafeades, 54, is charged with kidnapping, transportation for illegal sexual activity, and possession of child pornography, and could be sentenced to life in prison if convicted.

Vafeades was arrested at a Minnesota weigh station after officials there noticed his passenger — Vafeades’ 19-year-old cousin from Florida — had bruises on her arm and a restraining order had been issued to keep the trucker away from her.

Inside the underground sex economy

Until now there hasn't been a lot of data to help law enforcement and policymakers better understand the economics of the illegal sex trade and trafficking.

But a study released Wednesday by the Urban Institute's Justice Policy Center analyzes the size and structure of the underground commercial sex economies in eight major cities: San Diego, Seattle, Dallas, Denver, Washington, D.C., Miami, Atlanta and Kansas City, Missouri.

The three-year effort, which began in 2010, was funded by a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice, which supports research that can aid in the prevention, detection and prosecution of human trafficking.

Researchers interviewed pimps, traffickers, sex workers and child pornography offenders, as well as local and federal law enforcement officers.

Of the eight cities studied, Atlanta had the largest cash-based underground sex economy at $290 million a year and Denver the smallest at $40 million, based on 2007 data. (There was insufficient data available for Kansas City, so it was dropped from the estimation analysis.

Pimp Convicted, 'John' Pleads Guilty in Historic Case

Circle of Friends:Living Water for Girls acknowledges the tremendous efforts of the Fulton County DA's Office for this historic conviction and  pledge to continue providing safe spaces to heal, educational and therapeutic services and other necessary tools victims need in order to build bright futures.

Fulton County jurors found a man guilty Thursday of several crimes linked to prostituting 14-year-old girls in 2012.

Derek Spencer, 34, was convicted of human trafficking, statutory rape, aggravated child molestation, pimping, pandering, sexual exploitation of children, and contributing to the delinquency of a minor, according to a news release from Fulton County District Attorney Paul L. Howard Jr.’s office.

Spencer was sentenced to life in prison, without the possibility of parole.

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Circle of Friends partners with Allegiance Retirement Solutions

Circle of Friends partners with Allegiance Retirement Solutions

One of the largest, independently owned, wealth management firms in the Greater Atlanta area, Allegiance has been providing strategic retirement guidance for 30 years. Their personal approach and experience have earned them a reputation as one of the premier retirement planning firms in Atlanta. Staff members and certified financial planners volunteer with the Living Water Learning Resource Center to provide our young ladies with financial education.

Five Clients from the Living Water for Girls & Learning Resource Center will attend the Middle Georgia State College Prep Academy

Circle of Friends: Celebrating Life, Inc. announced that five girls from the Living Water for Girls & Learning Resource Center have been accepted into the Middle Georgia State College Prep Academy! The Prep Academy is an intensive six-week educational program offering instruction to students who would not normally qualify for admission, and who are interested in starting Middle Georgia State College in the 2013 fall semester. “We are grateful for this wonderful opportunity,” said Lisa Williams, founder of Circle of Friends. “All of the Living Water for Girls & Learning Resource Center clients have worked extremely hard on their academics, life-skills, and healing from their traumatic experiences. This is a natural progression for them as they begin new phases in their lives.”

Google Donating Big Bucks to Fight Modern Slavery

What Google is doing is absolutely huge and necessary and we should applaud their leadership and effort. It is my hope that more companies will become inspired to become involved in similar efforts that raise awareness and engage people from around the world to act to stop the demand for forced labor and the sexual exploitation of adults and children and to wholeheartedly assist those who are victims. I hope that this new partner in the fight against what is being referred to as modern-day slavery will also help shine a very bright spotlight on our own American children who too are victims of commercial sexual exploitation and trafficking. Our young American daughters who are lured, forced or coerced into prostitution and commercial sexual exploitation are often brutalized and traumatized and are bought and sold, rented and raped for profit in communities we often call home.

I ask all who read the Google article and our thoughts regarding this amazing funding announcement to join us with your prayers, talents and resources to make a difference in the world and also here at home for our own daughters and sons.

They too need and deserve big and powerful individuals, churches and companies to stand up and speak up on their behalf. Because they too matter. They too need us. They too are our children. Let us provide safe refuge, rehabilitative and restorative services for them. Let us be their hope. – Lisa Williams

Read the USA Today article on Google's donation here. http://www.usatoday.com/tech/news/story/2011-12-14/google-anti-slavery-donation/51918282/1

Georgia Airman uses technology to lure child half a continent away

It seems that despite all the warnings on TV and social media about how parents can protect their children from online predators, not everyone is paying attention. Here is yet another disturbing story about an adult who befriended an adolescent girl over the internet.

Arizona Tackles Human Trafficking

According to some estimates, nearly 300,000 American children fall victim to commercial sexual exploitation, or what's commonly referred to as human sex trafficking, each year. Sadly, most of these victims are not discovered unless they are arrested for prostitution. In Arizona, several groups are working with legislators to bring awareness to human trafficking.