Volunteers of Love True

Speaking from the perspective of a director at a grassroots non-profit: With every major leap we take towards our mission of ending domestic sex trafficking “one life at a time”, I can look back and locate specific volunteers that helped us be in a position to take that leap. We started as a 100% volunteer staff with a small army of individuals who stood by us as we moved forward into the great unknown of fighting sex trafficking in New Jersey and starting a 501(c)3 non-profit. While we grappled with how to best serve survivors, educate the public about this dark issue through a lens of hope, and build a non-profit from the ground up, we have had the support of hundreds of volunteers to make the dream a reality.

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Whenever I sit with a survivor and hear how well they are doing and how thankful they are for our support, I think of a volunteer that is back in the office doing tasks so I can have the time to be with those we serve.

 

 

That particular volunteer started her journey with Love True almost exactly this time last year- she volunteered at the Trek Against Trafficking. When I asked her about why she first felt the urge to work with us, she told me about her experience at the Trek.

Why did you start volunteering at Love True?

It’s a combination of two reasons, actually. One, it seems every church we’ve gone to the past several years has somehow been affiliated with Love True, or Love True has given one of their presentations there. After the fourth or fifth time, I couldn’t deny that I was being nudged – and/or pointedly shoved – in their direction. The second is that after seeing everyone who’d come out to the Trek last year, I really felt a tug on my heart to give more. I’m so grateful that I did.

Was the Trek your first time volunteering for Love True?

Yes. My dad had volunteered with the Trek the year before and I was excited to serve alongside him.

How was the experience?

It was wonderful, although a little different from what I expected. We were in charge of the farthest water station for the 10K race, and you couldn’t help but be inspired. We had fun encouraging the runners at the halfway point.

What was your favorite part?

Truly, seeing all the dedicated people who’d come out on a rainy autumn day to be a part of a cause that changes lives. Watching them sticking to their commitments and hitting their goals urged me to finally do something more in the fight against human trafficking.

Why should others volunteer at Love True?

Volunteering at Love True is more than just a paltry bandage in the attempt to cover a festering wound. We and others like us are the cure to the disease that is human trafficking. We are literally making history! Every movement has started small, be it William Wilberforce’s efforts to eradicate slavery in the British Empire, our own pre-Civil War abolitionist crusades, or Martin Luther King Jr.’s campaign for civil rights. However, with an intensely devoted group of people with a definiteness of purpose and a burning desire to achieve it, we will end human trafficking in our lifetime.

Will you be coming back this year?

Of course! And you all should be there too!

Hearing responses like these only further my admiration and gratitude towards our volunteers. I hope this year, more will have experiences like this and join our volunteer team!

If you are interested in volunteering at the Trek Against Trafficking or at Love True for other events/projects, please contact us by filling out one of these forms!

Written by Emily Rutt, Associate Director
 

 

 

When Trafficking isn't Your "Thing"

I have a confession, one that is 5 years in the making. I feel the judgment already and I cannot say it is necessarily undeserved. But here it goes.

Trafficking isn’t quite my “thing”.

This is a brutally honest confession for someone who spent 3 years as Love True’s Director of Fund Development, 4 years as race director for the Trek Against Trafficking, and who now serves as the coach and coordinator for Team Love True.

Sex trafficking, while heinous beyond measure, is nearly impossible for me to fully wrap my head around. Growing up in a loving and protective home, under the care of both a father and mother, my own risk of being trafficked and even my knowledge of trafficking was decidedly decreased. I was never at risk of meeting a potentially dangerous person I met online. I have never sat face to face a with a survivor, seeing the beauty and courage behind her eyes as she shares her story of hell and of overcoming. I have never spent time in a poverty-stricken nation where child sex trafficking is visible to all. While I mentally know the facts, the protected life I have led has hindered the fire in my belly for an atrocity with which I have not crossed paths.

Maybe you feel the same.

Sex trafficking in the United States is for the most part deeply hidden, tucked away from the daily goings-on of most average Americans. We know the facts. And they are so very ugly. But how do we even begin to fix a problem we have never seen? Sometimes a list of facts just doesn’t elicit the empathy that the reality deserves.

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Even if the emotions or the understanding of or the empathy for sex trafficking isn’t fully there, moving to action requires none of these.

I feel many of us find ourselves here. But friends, I offer this as no excuse. Rather, for those of us who have escaped this injustice, we have a responsibility to those who are suffering. Romans 15:1 says, “Now we who are strong have an obligation to bear the weaknesses of those without strength, and not to please ourselves.” We have an obligation to the voiceless and those living in the cycle of hell on earth. Even if the emotions or the understanding of or the empathy for sex trafficking isn’t fully there, moving to action requires none of these.

But where do you begin? How can you even make a dent in this ocean sized problem when all you have is a dropper?

Mother Teresa once said, "If you can't feed a hundred people, then feed just one." You or I cannot stop the problem of sex trafficking in the United States - alone. But we can do something, even if trafficking isn’t our “thing”. And if everyone together did just one something, then it would be those hundreds and thousands of “somethings” that would change the world.

On September 30th, Love True will be having our biggest fundraiser of the year - the Trek Against Trafficking race. Friends, this can be your something today. You may hate running (don’t worry, there’s a walk) or you may feel like running a race doesn’t do anything to stop trafficking but let me tell you, it does. Participation in this race makes a difference. For every person who signs up and runs in the name of freedom, that puts us one step closer to healing trafficking survivors. Not only that, you can go even further and use this race as a platform through Team Love True for further fundraising and spreading of awareness. When you are excited about doing something, you’ll be surprised at how many people will come alongside to support you.

If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.

After spending 4 years directing this race (read: pouring out blood, sweat, tears, and a whole lot of love), I stepped down after last year’s event while pregnant with my 4th child. The race was taken over by hands much more capable than mine, and I was tearfully happy to hand off the reins. And with that, this year I get to participate in the Trek for the very first time and I cannot wait. I have 3 children signed up for the kids’ races (baby can’t walk yet, watch out next year) and my husband and I are registered for the 5k (if you see a couple racing each other at the finish, that’ll be us). This is a family affair for us. Because I want my children to know at an early age that there will be a lot we can’t do, but that is no excuse to do nothing. Just because we cannot help one hundred does not mean we don’t help one.

And if you join me, then together we will help two.

Chloe Contarino is a mom of four boys (really, all boys!), a wife to one incredible man, and an unashamed lover of Jesus. She spent 4 years directing the Trek Against Trafficking, and seeing God use her love of running to nurture an incredible event from the ground up is one of her proudest accomplishments. When she isn’t homeschooling or out on a run or putting away toys or reading dozens of books out loud, she serves as the coordinator and certified running coach for Team Love True. For any questions related to running and fundraising for Team Love True, she will be so happy to hear from you! She can be reached at chloe@love-true.org.

Running The Race Of Freedom

Out of breath from running, I slowed down to a steady walk. I was halfway through the Trek Against Trafficking 5k and wasn’t sure if I had trained enough for this moment. My heart was pounding and I questioned if I’d be the last person to cross the finish line. Physically, I was tired and I wanted to quit. Mentally, I knew I couldn’t stop and had to keep going, but I needed something to hold onto to help me press forward. I thought about how I wanted to achieve this goal of running a 5k. I thought about my family who was rooting for me, but it wasn’t enough. 

And then I realized what I had forgotten in that breathless moment: I was running for freedom.

Those that financially supported my race, the people cheering along the course, the volunteers who spent months preparing for this day - we were all in this together, fighting for freedom and doing our part to fight the epidemic of human trafficking.  

In that moment, I was changed. It was no longer about me, my race, or even my ability to finish. It was about the difference I was making. Each step I took was a step for freedom. It was a step I was taking with the hope that it was one less step a trafficked child would be forced to take. As I crossed that finish line, I was tired, but filled with a reignited hope. 

Two years from that unforgettable moment, I’m now in the role of race director for this year’s Trek Against Trafficking. It’s been an honor to oversee Love True’s largest event, especially since it was an event that changed me when I ran a few years ago. As the months go by and as we get closer to the race, I find that yet again, I’m being changed all over again. With each race registration I see, my heart leaps with joy because I believe that they too, will be changed during this race. It’s not just a one mile walk. It’s not just a 5k or 10k. It’s a powerful statement that we are aligning ourselves with freedom. 

We were all in this together, fighting for freedom and doing our part to fight the epidemic of human trafficking.

Being a part of our Trek Against Trafficking sends a message to survivors that we stand with them and support them. It shows those who feel trapped and wonder if they’ll ever make it out that we see their pain and are fighting for them. Lastly, it sends a very clear message to the evil around us that we won’t stay silent any longer. 

We’re only two and a half months away from race day and I couldn’t be more excited to see how this year’s race will unfold. So many lives have been touched already through this race, and it’s only just the beginning. 

On September 30th, 2017 in Duke Island Park in Bridgewater, NJ we will see hundreds of people come together to run for freedom. We’ll see moms pushing the strollers that their children are in, as they run the 5k. We’ll see dads cheering as they watch their littlest ones run in the children’s races. We’ll celebrate life and the beauty of freedom, and we’ll also run with a passionate hope to see trafficking ended in our lifetime. 

It was a step I was taking with the hope that it was one less step a trafficked child would be forced to take.

Love True’s Trek Against Trafficking has been changing lives for the last 5 years and we would be honored to have you be a part of it. If you’ve run with us before, we hope to see your smiling faces running with us again. If you’ve never run before, I promise you that it will be life-changing, not only for you, but also for those you are running for. 

Our Trek registration prices will be going up at the end of July, so be sure to sign up before then to lock in the best rate. By signing up early, you’re guaranteed a spot and a t-shirt to commemorate the day you ran for freedom. 

Whether you walk with your family or run the longest distance we have this year, your very presence makes a difference. 

Click here to sign up or donate today.

See you there!
 

Amanda Pietrocola is passionate about ending sex trafficking and has been a volunteer for Love True for the past four years. Earlier this year, she stepped into the role of race director for Love True. On her blog, HappilyMe23, she shares about 20-something life in an uplifting and "real talk" kind of way. She's also been a guest blogger on multiple blogs, most notably Jim Daly's blog, the President of Focus on the Family.

A Letter From Our New Prevention Education Director

After a year at Love True as the Prevention Education Intern during my Master of Social Work program, I have now been hired full-time as the Prevention Education Director, and I couldn’t be more excited about this opportunity!

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I came face to face with the reality of sex trafficking through years of research on national and international human trafficking throughout my undergraduate and graduate career, experiences in the domestic violence and sex trafficking fields, and a summer internship in Cambodia while obtaining my undergraduate degree. It is with great expectation that I continue to commit myself to combatting sex trafficking through my new role as the Prevention Education Director at Love True.

There are several things that I am particularly looking forward to as I take on this role. First of all, I will be devoting a considerable amount my of time and energy into ensuring that Love True’s Prevention Education trainings are brought into schools. FBI statistics assert that the average age girls are victimized by prostitution is 12 to 14 and the average age for boys is 11 to 13. However, according to federal and state law, there is no such thing as underage prostitution, but everyone under the age of 18 who is engaged in a commercial sex act is, in reality, a victim of sex trafficking, this is something we make very clear in our Prevention Education programs. Not only that, but people are more vulnerable to sex trafficking in periods of transition: something that kids in school are constantly experiencing. Therefore, in this coming year, we will be taking a proactive approach in contacting schools to schedule trainings in order to educate as many youth and staff as possible.

We will also be evaluating our Prevention Education programs. This will include conducting consistent research into best practices in anti-trafficking education, getting feedback from those who attend our programs, and integrating that research and feedback into our trainings in a way that makes them more engaging, relatable, and informative. One of the core strengths of the Love True team is its innovative nature in anti-trafficking efforts, and that is something that I intend to continue to keep at the forefront by continually improving our material.

Most of all, I want to invite you to join the Prevention Education Program. Whether that is by volunteering, facilitating one of our many programs, requesting that this training be brought to any circle that you are involved in, praying, or donating, please consider joining in.

All in all, as the Prevention Education Director, I am eager to oversee the growth and expansion of the Prevention Education Program in order to educate as many people as possible with the highest quality of sex trafficking education. We anticipate training a variety of professionals, working with youth in differing capacities to see the warning signs of trafficking and how to address it, as well as educating the youth themselves in order to reduce their risk of being trafficked. Finally, we envision welcoming all members of the community, especially men, who are characteristically absent in anti-trafficking efforts, to join in the fight to end sex trafficking.

If you would like to talk more with me, please give me a call at (732) 649-8783 or email me at alec@love-true.org.

Pornography And Human Sex Trafficking Are Inseparably Connected

It’s 2017, and the reality of this digital age is that internet porn is more vast and varied than just about anything else found online. Since Fight the New Drug was started in 2008, it’s become abundantly clear that porn is increasingly becoming more accessible, affordable, and anonymously used, year after year. But what’s the big deal about all of this? Plenty, and we’ll tell you why.

The average porn viewer, likely exposed before the age of 18, has no idea what exactly goes into the production of a single pornographic image or video. They might not even think about how or why a performer got to be on camera. If someone contributed even one, or a substantial amount, of the 23 billion views of the world’s most popular free porn site last year, they probably don’t understand the likelihood that they might be viewing a performer who didn’t appear on film of their own free will.

In other words, viewing a victim of human sex trafficking.

That’s right. Porn and sex trafficking are inseparably linked, and much of society denies this fact. For example, a common misconception held by too many porn viewers was tweeted at us after we posted facts about sex trafficking:

Clearly, too many people are completely blind to the link between porn and sex trafficking, and the fact that one industry fuels the other. Too many think that the porn industry and sex trafficking industry are completely separate issues, one being legitimate and the latter being illegal activity that only happens in developing countries. Absolutely not so. The truth is, porn, prostitution and sex trafficking are more closely linked than the average viewer may realize.

By The Numbers

We live in a world that needs to see hard numbers to legitimize an issue. Unfortunately, since sex trafficking is an underground business, those numbers are hard to come by. But a lot of what we do know about the current state of the industry comes from survivors, and they have a lot to say about how porn was largely connected to or included in their trafficking.

They probably don’t understand the likelihood that they might be viewing a performer who didn’t appear on film of their own free will.

- According to anti-trafficking nonprofit, Rescue:Freedom, in 9 countries, 49% of trafficking survivors said that pornography was made of them while they were in prostitution.

- By some estimates, 4.5 million people are trapped or forced into sexual exploitation globally. (International Labor Organization)

- In one survey, 63% of underage sex trafficking victims said they had been advertised or sold online. (Thorn)

- And 70% of underage trafficking victims say that pornography was made of them while enslaved. (Thorn)

- Sex trafficking is big business—it generates $99 billion annually, just from commercial sexual exploitation alone. (International Labor Organization)

While only 22% of global trafficking victims are trafficked for sex, sexual exploitation earns 66% of the global profits of human trafficking. The average annual profits generated by each woman in forced sexual servitude ($100,000) is estimated to be six times more than the average profits generated by each trafficking victim worldwide ($21,800), according to the ILO.  Studies show that sexual exploitation can yield a return on investment ranging from 100% to 1,000%.

Here’s a real life example. In the Netherlands, investigators were able to calculate the profit generated by two sex traffickers from a number of victims. One trafficker earned $18,148 per month from four victims (for a total of $127,036) while the second trafficker earned $295,786 in the 14 months that three women were sexually exploited according to the OSCE.

Studies show that sexual exploitation can yield a return on investment ranging from 100% to 1,000%.

What does any of this have to do with porn? It means that exploiting vulnerable people for profit in the sex industry is a sure way to make a lot of money. And seeing as the porn industry is worth an estimated $97 billion on its own, it’s clear why many traffickers choose to capitalize on the opportunity.

Take it from an expert. Dr. Karen Countryman-Roswurm, LMSW, Ph.D is the Founding Executive Director for the Wichita State University, Center for Combating Human Trafficking. Watch the trafficking survivor and leading anti-trafficking expert speak out on the clear connection between the porn industry and sex trafficking industry:

Porn Fuels Trafficking, And Vice Versa

This is the reality of what the porn industry fuels: real people being sexually abused and exploited at the hands of family members, traffickers and pimps. Each click to porn content directly fuels the demand for sex traffickers to make money by selling videos of their sex slaves to porn sites. But what about major porn studios and porn sites—aren’t they completely separate from the sex trafficking issue?

Absolutely not.

The more the mainstream adult entertainment industry flourishes, the bigger the opposing globalized black market for porn will become. So the higher the demand for porn, even porn that was produced in professional studios (which, newsflash, also abuse their performers),  the more sex traffickers will want to profit from that lucrative porn demand, and the more they’ll exploit vulnerable people to get there. After all, as we’ve seen from the numbers, it’s big business to do so.

The more the mainstream adult entertainment industry flourishes, the bigger the opposing globalized black market for porn will become.

As an anti-porn organization, this is exactly why we do what we do and why we’re fighting to stop the demand for sexual exploitation. By creating awareness, by educating others on why porn is tangibly harmful to our world, we are creating a movement of change around the world that surely puts a dent in the massive porn industry. Knowledge is power, and being aware of the facts is an important step in decreasing the demand for porn and helping to eliminate sex trafficking.

Written by: Fight the New Drug

About Fight the New Drug: Fight the New Drug is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization with the mission to educate and raise awareness on the harmful effects of pornography and sexual exploitation. We exist to provide individuals, especially teens, with the opportunity to make an informed decision regarding pornography by raising awareness using only science, facts, and personal accounts.

 

Everyone is Vulnerable

If you have ever taken a psych class you are probably familiar with this pyramid. It’s Maslow’s Theory of Human Motivation. This theory explains humans’ basic psychological needs like water, shelter and food, up to needs such as acceptance, purpose and inner-potential. For a human to be fully healthy in body and mind they need all of these areas to be filled.

Graphics sourced from Love True’s Professional Training on Domestic Sex Trafficking

Graphics sourced from Love True’s Professional Training on Domestic Sex Trafficking

But as we know, for most, maybe even all, humans don’t have all these areas fulfilled. This leaves us having vulnerable areas in varying levels depending on which section of the pyramid we are missing and which sections are combined. For instance, if you are homeless and hungry, your most basic needs are not being met, leaving you vulnerable in the area of “Psychological Needs”. On the other hand you could have plenty of food and a beautiful, safe home but still feel like you are unloved and alone. This would leave you vulnerable in the “Love and Belonging” section. Any person can have vulnerabilities in any given section in any combination.

I am passionate about this topic because I have noticed that most people think if they have the bottom three, or even just two, sections of the pyramid fulfilled that they are not vulnerable. But they, unfortunately, are very wrong. Even though their vulnerabilities are not as clearly seen by those around them, they are deeply rooted within the person and some people can detect them. Hopefully in some cases those people are caring peers or individuals in their lives but some could be those who want to exploit these vulnerabilities.

Graphics sourced from Love True’s Professional Training on Domestic Sex Trafficking

Graphics sourced from Love True’s Professional Training on Domestic Sex Trafficking

In the population of those who would exploit those vulnerabilities are pimps, traffickers or controllers. (Which are the same: according to federal and NJ state law, anyone who uses force, fraud or coercion in selling someone in commercial sex is considered a sex trafficker). Traffickers target those with vulnerabilities and then exploit them by selling them for sex or sex acts. Here is how one trafficker used Maslow's Theory of Human Motivation to exploit those vulnerabilities.

Graphics sourced from Love True’s Professional Training on Domestic Sex Trafficking

Graphics sourced from Love True’s Professional Training on Domestic Sex Trafficking

He is basically saying that whatever this person is missing from their lives he will attempt to fill in order to take advantage of that person. This is seen as a more effective form of recruitment because then their victim has dependency and may even love or trust their perpetrator. This also contributes to Stockholm Syndrome which is common among victims of abuse and or kidnapping/hostage situations. This syndrome is when the victim has loving feelings for their abuser/captor; a survival technique.

Because of recruitment methods such as this one, people from all ages, genders, ethnicities, and socioeconomic statuses can be trafficked. This is all the more reason to be aware of our own vulnerabilities and those who are in our lives, whether they be our family, friends, coworkers, school mates or even neighbors. If we can fill those vulnerable areas by being a friend or helping support a struggling family we could potentially rescue them from the sights of an exploiter. This can play a major role in someone being vulnerable to exploitation in general, not just trafficking.

A survivor leader that we’ve worked with at Love True once told me that if someone, even just one had said something when they saw the suspicious activities going on that her experience of being exploited by a neighbor may have been prevented. So, if it’s that simple, if the answer to a massive social injustice is to care for those around you and help fill vulnerable areas than why don’t we do it? Awareness. People do not know just how important it is and what effect they may have on those around them. Our actions and words have power and they have the power to possibly prevent someone's life from being stolen in one way or another. So next time you see something, be sure to say something. When you notice a lacking area in a life ask yourself, “can I help fill it”. Know that you can make all the difference in someone’s life just by being aware of their life and choosing to act against exploitation.


If you know someone who is at risk or is being sex trafficked please call the National Sex Trafficking Hotline 888-3737-888

Running To End Trafficking

Running can help end slavery? Yes, here at Love True we like raising awareness and funds in a variety of ways, and our running team is a part of that. Chloe is the director of the running team. We talked with her recently about how fighting human trafficking and running in races can be connected. 

Can you describe what the running team is in a few short words?
Chloe: In short, our running team is an opportunity to take on a challenge and use that as a platform for raising awareness and funds. You commit to doing something hard and ask others to support a good cause in honor of your efforts. It's a win-win as one can achieve their physical goals while simultaneously raising funds and awareness to fight sex trafficking in New Jersey.

Why a running team, and who can participate?
Chloe: What I love about running is how much it mirrors life and faith. By offering the opportunity to run for Love True, we are giving you the opportunity to fight both physically and philanthropically for something you believe in. And our team is open to all! With committing to fundraising comes personalized coaching from our nationally certified running coach (alternatively known as me). 

Our running team is an opportunity to take on a challenge and use that as a platform for raising awareness and funds.

What is it like to cross a finish line not just for yourself but for an organization like Love True as well?
Chloe: It gives you the knowledge that the hours of training and the pain of racing are so much bigger than yourself. Knowing that by crossing the finish line, there is a young girl out there that much closer to receiving the care and healing she needs from a life of hell makes the struggle so very worth it. 


How can someone join the running team? 
Chloe: They can start by emailing me at chloe@love-true.org with their interest. I then send out a form to fill out so I can evaluate their goals and needs, and then if necessary, begin personalizing a training plan for them. I also work with them to get their fundraising page up and running, and equip them with tools for spreading the word about their efforts. hey can also fill out the form here.

By offering the opportunity to run for Love True, we are giving you the opportunity to fight both physically and philanthropically for something you believe in.

The running team just had a big race, can you tell us a little about it?
Chloe: e did! Team Love True came into the Baker's Dozen Half Marathon on March 25th as one of the biggest charity teams there! We have 6 participants, and to put this in perspective, each team was capped at 8 members. Collectively, our team raised $2,131 through their training, all of which will go to our restoration home fund.

Are there races coming up?
Chloe: Someone wanting to run for Team Love True can run in any race of their choosing, at any time. That said, we do from time to time as team have team races, and in late September there will be our 5th Annual Trek Against Trafficking race. Those who commit to any distance and raise a certain minimum amount will be entitled to free registration! More information will be coming up soon. I also have a dream of recruiting a team to run the a relay through the entirety of New Jersey, but that idea is still in dream-only status. 

Knowing that by crossing the finish line, there is a young girl out there that much closer to receiving the care and healing she needs from a life of hell makes the struggle so very worth it. 

What excites you about the future of this team?
Chloe: I firmly believe that with enough momentum and excitement, Team Love True can fully fund New Jersey's first restoration home for teenage victims of domestic sex trafficking. And that alone is exciting enough to join the movement, literally and figuratively.

We’re excited about the growth and work the running team has been doing. As Chloe said, if you would like to get involved in the running team you can go to the running page or contact Chloe at chloe@love-true.org. And as Chloe also mentioned we have our annual Trek Against Trafficking on September 30th, sign up here to join the fun!