Sex trafficking awareness: Mom’s brunch, comedy show raise funds for survivors – National sex trafficking |

It is Mother’s Day weekend. StreetLightUSA, a residential treatment in Phoenix, is being honored this weekend by area supporters who are putting on fundraising events. Both activities are great places to take the mothers in your life that would love a sweet dining experience or a great comedy show.

Elevate Coffee Company is celebrating moms with non-stop crepes for the weekend.

With each crepe purchase, mothers will receive a free drink, and $1.00 will be donated to StreetLightUSA. Offer is good Saturday and Sunday, May 12 and 13.

Location: 2530 W Happy Valley Rd, Suite 1273

Phoenix, AZ 85085

At the Shops at Norterra, next to the Harkins Theatre

(602) 341-5480

Special free bonus: Saturday night May 12th, the Musical Theater of Anthem will be giving a free performance. They will feature selections from their musical “Annie” and other pop music. For highlights of Anthem Musical Theater in action, click here.

  • Free to Laugh Comedy Show is playing at Bethany Bible Church in Phoenix. The two shows feature comedians Carlos Oscar, Dana Daniels, and Leland Klassen. The clean, family friendly humor will have you laughing until your sides ache. A portion of each ticket will go to StreetLightUSA to provide services for the residents.

Location: Bethany Bible Church
6060 N. 7th Avenue
Phoenix, AZ 85013
Ticket cost: $20.00 each, purchased at the door.
Show times: 5:00 and 8:00 p.m.

StreetLightUSA is a non-profit organization dedicated to the care and healing of girls 11-17 who have been held in hostage-like situations and have been forced to prostitute their bodies. Often, they service 10 or more customers each night, and are subjected to every kind of brutal treatment imaginable. There are very few places these children can go for safety, medical care, education, training in life skills, and resources for turning their lives around. StreetLightUSA offers all of this in their residential facility, the only such comprehensive service in Arizona, and one of a handful of similar centers across the country.

Make a date with your favorite mom to attend one of these events, and be a blessing to the girls who may need a caring place to heal from the trauma of sex trafficking.

via Sex trafficking awareness: Mom’s brunch, comedy show raise funds for survivors – National sex trafficking |

Alexis La Benz: A Girl Scout fights sex trafficking on a national scale – National sex trafficking |

Alexis La Benz of Chandler, Arizona has campaigned against the forced prostitution of children for the past four years, beginning at age 14. Her fight has mainly been orchestrated through informational and inspirational presentations within the ranks of Girl Scouts, teen groups and churches, both at the local and national level. She is now a high school senior who will be starting college in the fall, but the passion for making a difference for the sex trafficked children has not diminished.

She is part of a group called GS GEMS, Girl Scout Girls Empowering and Mentoring with Support, which will continue to raise awareness within the community about the issue. Alexis will transition at some point from a Scout to a troop leader, where her passion and influence can continue to grow.

View slideshow: Being a voice for the voiceless: A teen speaks out for sex trafficked teens.

Through this experience that married Girl Scouting and the championship of a cause, many doors have opened up for Alexis La Benz.

  • She has become good friends with some survivors and collaborated with other Girl
    Scout groups.
  • A pilot program with GSUSA teamed the GEMS members with Girl Guides in Honduras around the issue of sex trafficking. This broadened the perspective of both sets of scouts to see how the problem manifests and is handled in each country. The US girls began making and selling black and white awareness bracelets as their point of entrée for discussion, and the Hondurans prepared and served meals for the same purpose.
  • Alexis was named one of 10 National Young Women of Distinction, the highest award in Girl Scouting by GSUSA
  • She was asked to address 15,000 Girl Scouts and tell about her Gold Award project at the 2011 National GSUSA Conference where she got to meet the GSUSA president, Anna Maria Chavez.
  • She has received several scholarships and will be participating in Arizona State
    University’s Barrett Honors College in the fall of 2012.
  • As part of the 100th year celebration of Girl Scouting, Alexis took part in a ceremony at the Arizona State Capitol in which Governor Jan Brewer and eight other state legislators were given honorary Girl Scout status.
  • Alexis and her fellow GS GEMS, created a training video that other troops around the country can use to develop their own GS GEMS programs.
  • In 2010, she received the GS World Leadership Award
  • She was a Girl Advisor on the Arizona Girl Scouts Board of Directors for 2010-2012
  • Alexis still continues to do speaking engagements and incorporates her website,, into her presentations.

What does all this involvement in the sordid world of sex trafficking mean for Alexis?

“It has had a huge impact on my life. It helps the greater good and helps me know about myself, the kind of leader I am. Even though there are really awful things in the world, you don’t have to sit idly by. You can put your foot down and say, ‘This has to be stopped!’ Even though it is a big bad world, we can help each other.”

Alexis will be majoring in Business Communication with a minor in Social Entrepreneurship (non-profit management). Her eventual goal is to be the CEO of GSUSA. In the meantime, she will continue to be a warrior in the fight against commercial sexual exploitation of children and will recruit others to stand with her in the battle

Read more about Alexis LaBenz’s story.

via Alexis La Benz: A Girl Scout fights sex trafficking on a national scale – National sex trafficking |

Childhood sexual abuse made Barbara vulnerable to sex trafficking ploys – National sex trafficking |

Barbara Amaya has been living with a painful, devastating secret for over 40 years. She was a victim of child sex trafficking decades before there was even a term for such a thing. Only in the last few weeks, at age 55, has she been able to start telling her story. For the first time, she has a voice for her brokenness, and people are listening.

“I feel like I was raised by animals, but they would have treated me better.”

Barbara Amaya

View slideshow: Barbara Amaya today.

Family sexual abuse was not uncommon in the ’60s and ’70s, but it was not really an open matter. When Barbara tried to tell her mother of her ordeals, she was met with denial that anything had happened. Without validation or help or protection from the abusers, the cycle of rapes and molestations continued. At 12, Barbara ran away to nearby Washington, D.C. She was caught, put in detention or reform school and would eventually run again. No one ever acknowledged the abuse or asked her what was going on inside. When she was returned to her home and put in school, she knew her world was so different that she would never be able to fit back in.

Using every kind of drug she could access, the young teen was struggling to numb herself from the horrors of her world. Once, while alone in D.C., a woman befriended her and took the girl home with her. Desperately looking for love and acceptance, Barbara was a perfect target for the next stage. She was forced to prostitute herself on the street corners.

At 13, the woman sold her to a male pimp from New York. He was the “stereotypical pimp with the platform shoes and fancy car”, and he played the role of “boyfriend”. Soon, he, too, forced Barbara to sell herself. She stayed with him for about six years and complied, even though she knew she was risking her life every night on the streets of New York. Raped, beaten, shot and stabbed on numerous occasions, she ran away several times, but her captor would always find her and beat her mercilessly into submission.

When picked up by the police for prostitution, Barbara always lied that her age was 19 or 21, as instructed by the pimp, and the officers never questioned that information. They never offered her any help or alternatives. When she got out of jail, she returned to the pimp as her only option.

Barbara’s drug of choice was heroin, and she was so badly addicted that even the pimp realized she was no longer useful to him. She kept aside some of her trick money so she could buy more drugs and then got beaten up for her lies and deceit. She started staying away from the house until he finally cut her loose and left her on the street.

For two years, she lived as the walking dead, homeless, addicted and desolate. A counselor from a methadone program was able to reunite this young woman with her family, and in 1979, Barbara took a train to Philadelphia to see them. She has never looked back on that life nor been back to New York.

Barbara’s website:

Read the rest of Barbara’s story:

via Childhood sexual abuse made Barbara vulnerable to sex trafficking ploys – National sex trafficking |

The aftermath of sex trafficking: Dealing with the pain and shame – National sex trafficking |

As a survivor of teen sex trafficking, Barbara Amaya was ready to be done with the life of captivity and mandated sex acts with multiple strangers every night. It is typical for many former victims to feel drawn back into the abuse and sex trades, but this young lady was able to turn away completely and make a new start.

However, the effects of the years of humiliation were not over. Only 21, but having lived a thousand nightmares called life, getting detoxed and clean from the drugs took years. Barbara had left school in 6th grade and had no skills. She had undiagnosed PTSD and panic attacks, and when drug-free had to deal with all the terrors of the past that permeated her mind and emotions. Reconnecting with the family was stressful, for their best course was to put her in a program for the mentally handicapped. At the time, there was little understanding of the effects of sex trafficking.

After time, Barbara did get her GED and a degree in Early Childhood Development. She returned to Virginia where she married, but due to her unhealed wounding, she had a knack for picking alcoholics. Desperately wanting a baby, but unable to conceive because of sexual trauma-induced infertility, she had surgery and was able to bear a daughter.

As a mom, Barbara became intensely protective of her child. She left her husband when the baby was two, and had to work. She was afraid to leave the girl at day care and “started acting crazy”, and realized she needed counseling. She later lost her federal government job when she was fingerprinted, and her record came back with adult prostitution arrests while she had been in New York. Even though she was as young as 12 at the time, she had lied about her age and no one questioned her.

Shame-filled, alone and unable to trust her story to others, Barbara started a daycare in her home. She had a season of not being involved in a relationship, which she credits as the tool that God used for her healing process. Prior to this, she was still looking for love and romance and spent time going clubbing, making poor choices in her involvements with men.

Health issues such as back pain, from being thrown down stairs and out of a car, and abuse-related uterine cancer, resulting in a complete hysterectomy, reminded this young woman of the damage in her body as well as her soul. Times of solitude helped Barbara learn to love herself, but there were lots of “dark, ugly days” of being really depressed as she worked through her past.

Barbara’s daughter ran away from home at 15, and this was the catalyst for the heartsick mom to tell her child about her own childhood. This was a turning point as Barbara’s eyes were opened to see that the abuse was not her fault. She was a deeply wounded child who hadn’t known what she was getting into, and was literally brainwashed from 12 to 19 to be in the life. It was “us against the squares, and this conditioning plays into a young person’s mindset, especially when a girl is searching for love. It is hard to come to mindset that I am one of the normal people”.

Next: A sex trafficking survivor walks in victory, helping other victims

Read the rest of Barbara’s story:

Barbara can be contacted through her website:

via The aftermath of sex trafficking: Dealing with the pain and shame – National sex trafficking |

A sex trafficking survivor walks in victory, helping other victims – National sex trafficking |

“I needed to stop isolating myself and begin to help others. I want to help runaways.” Barbara Amaya

Barbara Amaya knows what it is like to have been abused to the point of having no self-esteem, living a life of fear and hiddenness. She always thought that something was wrong with her, but she had no way to express it. Currently, she is finding her voice and telling her story about being a sex trafficking victim and now survivor. After 40 years of shame and silence, she has come forward to share her history just in the last few weeks. She applied to work with a DC non-profit,, and was asked to speak at their group. She has started a blog about her life, and has been featured on a few news stories. Currently, Barbara is writing a book about her life called, Girls Guide to Survival: Life Lessons from the Street.

PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) is still Barbara’s nemesis. Flashbacks of the violence and sexual degradation haunt her, and memories can pop up unbidden at any moment. Writing and speaking engagements about her past can stir up nightmares. She is hyper-vigilant, but feels content in life. Her abuse is part of her story, and she knows that she would not be alive now if not for God looking out for her.

So many years of silence and struggle with her identity have given Barbara a heart for others with similar experiences. She wants to set up a forum on her website for survivors who want to talk. Some already reach out to her through email. She encourages others to connect and talk, to look at strengths that have been gained through the circumstances. Even though it has taken decades for her to get to this point, she wants others to be set free.

The biggest goal for Barbara Amaya now is to finish her book and get the story out. She wants to help others and know that she is making a difference. Estimates of children being trafficked number in the hundreds of thousands annually. The damage they suffer is enormous physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. Survivors who have come through the process and restructured their lives are invaluable to those trying to break free of the bondage of forced prostitution. Barbara Amaya is ready to be part of the healing process for others.

“A part of me was untouched inside, despite all the beatings, shootings, stabbings and rapes. It has stayed pure. It has to be God. All those nights, I was kept alive and safe. I am very grateful and I feel a calling to tell the story.”

Barbara can be contacted through her website, .

Next: Child sex trafficking in the US: 40 year comparison of pimps and victims

Read the rest of Barbara’s story:

Childhood sexual abuse made Barbara vulnerable to sex trafficking ploys

The aftermath of sex trafficking: Dealing with the pain and shame

Child sex trafficking in the US: 40 year comparison of pimps and victims

Barbara can be contacted through her website:

via A sex trafficking survivor walks in victory, helping other victims – National sex trafficking |

Child sex trafficking in the US: 40-year comparison of pimps and victims – National sex trafficking |

There have been many forms of commercial child sexual exploitation in the US, but it is only in the last dozen years that it became an official federal crime. Under the TVPA (Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000), children were identified as victims of sex trafficking if they were sold for sex or coerced into sex acts. Even though this law mainly applied to foreigners brought to the US, later revisions explicitly included American children. Federal penalties for traffickers and customers could be up to 25 years in prison, and provision is made for the minor who was forced into prostitution to be viewed as a victim and not the criminal.

Barbara Amaya was trafficked in the ’70s, first by a Washington, DC couple, and then by a man in New York City. Unfortunately for her, children caught in prostitution were considered as criminal adults who had chosen that lifestyle. She went to jail several times, and actually incriminated herself by lying about her age to appear older. Her story shows that the methods of child sex traffickers and the effects on the victims have not changed in 40 years. This scenario happens daily with a hundred thousand kids across this country.

Barbara was sexually and physically abused in her home as a young child during the ’60s. Recent studies indicate that 70-90 percent of currently trafficked minors report a pattern of abuse from family members, neighbors or respected community people within their circles.

The abuse was not believed nor properly addressed by Barbara’s mother. Greater trauma occurs to children who try to report the abuse and are either penalized for telling or ignored. The child is left vulnerable and the predatory routines continue unchecked. Only 50% of such cases are ever reported to the police or Child Protective Services.

The mental anguish of the lifestyle caused Barbara to run away, and that led first to placement in detention and a reform school. Running from these places led to getting connected with traffickers. Nearly all prostituted children have run away from home and/or from foster placements. One-in-three of these children will be picked up by predators within 48 hours of being on the streets.

Barbara’s male pimp pretended to be her boyfriend, using violence and manipulation to get her to comply. Many of the modern pimps are well versed in control tactics and are called “Romeo or finesse pimps” (the boyfriends) or “gorilla pimps” (those who use brute force without pretending any affinity for the relationship).

Heroin was Barbara’s escape from dealing with the horrors of her life. Although the captors may indulge in street drugs and may use them to bring the girls into compliance, they try to keep the victims from getting hooked. However, substance abuse as a way of coping with the personal devastation is a compounding factor with today’s exploited youth

Both the pimp and the johns treated Barbara with violence. Victims of sex trafficking are considered dispensable, and the crime of prostituting people attracts a number of other criminal mindsets. It is not uncommon for survivors to report beatings, rapes, torture and assault with guns or knives.

Barbara has dealt with compounded physical, emotional and psychological effects of her sexual exploitation for more than 40 years. Sexual assault trauma is intricately layered into the whole of a person. Overcoming it is incredibly painful and can take years and years of work.

The methods of pimps, sexual predators and traffickers show little variation across the decades, and the damage to the victims remains in a constant range of severity. However, the frequency of child sex trafficking activities is increasing, in part, with the ease of buying and selling sex with children on the Internet.

The Internet was not in the picture when Barbara was being exploited, and for that she is glad. She reflects that AIDS was not yet a concern in the late 70s, but came to the forefront a couple of years later. Crack cocaine and crystal meth were also not components of the prostitution scene at the time, and Barbara knows she would have used them if they had been available. These days, teens think nothing of attending Pimp and Ho parties, which glamorize the trafficking culture. They don’t realize that they are being desensitized to a horrific lifestyle that involves every possible degradation of people imaginable.

Barbara does see change coming in the way a lot of people view trafficking of children. Laws are being changed and enforced, healing resources are more available to victims, and survivors such as she are standing in the gap to inform, protect and nurture the next generation.

Read the rest of Barbara’s story:

Childhood sexual abuse made Barbara vulnerable to sex trafficking ploys

The aftermath of sex trafficking: Dealing with the pain and shame

A sex trafficking survivor walks in victory, helping other victims

Barbara can be contacted through her website:

via Child sex trafficking in the US: 40-year comparison of pimps and victims – National sex trafficking |

Backpage boasts 400 child sex ads reported monthly: More trafficked minors found – National sex trafficking |

In a May 2012 investigation by ABC Nightline, the lawyer for Village Voice Media’s subsidiary,, insisted that the publication giant is helping stop the sex trafficking of minors. This week, Backpage asked that the demand from the state attorneys general to shut down the adult sex ads be dropped. Attorney Liz McDougall told Nightline’s Cynthia McFadden that 80 percent of their Phoenix based employees are tasked with scouring the adult services ads to find postings about children. Approximately 400 notices are passed on to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children each month, double the number reported six months ago.

Nevertheless, there are still children being trafficked through the online ads of Sheryl*, an employee at a national treatment center* for girls rescued from sex trafficking, regularly monitors the adult section of Backpage. She has recently identified two of the former residents of the facility. The pictures were turned over to the police and the teen girls were found and apprehended. In addition, a third girl, age 15, and the pimp were brought into custody.

View slideshow: Blatantly violating its own standards on sex ads?

Often, the girls themselves are commanded by the pimp to take and post their own pictures. Even though the posting rules specify that account holders must be 18 or over, and a credit card is needed to pay the ad fees, there is no way to verify the age or identity of the poster.

Posting rules on

You agree to the following when posting in this category:

  • I will not post obscene or lewd and lascivious graphics or photographs which depict genitalia, actual or simulated sexual acts or naked images;
  • I will not post any solicitation directly or in “coded” fashion for any illegal service, including exchanging sexual favors for money or other valuable consideration;
  • I will not post any material on the Site that exploits minors in any way;
  • I will not post any material on the Site that in any way constitutes or assists in human trafficking;
  • I am at least 18 years of age or older and not considered to be a minor in my state of residence.

Any post exploiting a minor in any way will be subject to criminal prosecution and will be reported to the Cybertipline for law enforcement.

Postings violating these rules and our Terms of Use are subject to removal without refund.

The Adult Entertainment section is filled with ads that blatantly violate the company’s own rules. The second bullet point refers to prostitution, which is illegal in all states except Nevada, and there it is legal only in certain counties. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that the services being solicited are sex for money, especially with the pictures on the sidebar. Human trafficking may be most identifiable if minors are involved, but “consenting adults” may also be entrapped in the bondage of sex slavery in a variety of ways. is making $2-3 million every month from the sex ads, but Liz McDougall claims they are helping to stop the sex trafficking by cooperating with the police. However, the attorneys general from 48 states and three territories have declared that they are contributing to the problem by allowing the adult section to continue. There is a major nationwide movement to have Backpage shut down their adult services section, just as Craig’s List did 18 months ago.

What do you think? Does the ease of advertising sexual services contribute to sex trafficking, especially of minors?

*Name of center and employee withheld for the protection of the residents

via Backpage boasts 400 child sex ads reported monthly: More trafficked minors found – National sex trafficking |