For the Silent

HEALTH | FITNESS
2017
September/October

For The Silent is changing the lives of girls and fighting sex trafficking with their belief that: hope is the only thing more powerful than fear. We must keep safe, and we must keep those around us safe.

Fortunately for the East Texas community, we have For The Silent to ask for help. Ten years ago, Kenny Rigsby founded For The Silent in order to protect youth from sexual exploitation. For The Silent’s “team” trained while helping sex trafficking victims in Asia, and this stirred their passion to do something in our own community. Rigsby and the team ultimately learned of the local sex trafficking issue, and since 2010, For The Silent has worked exclusively in East Texas.

For The Silent aspires to bring hope to the East Texas community. For their 10th anniversary, For The Silent is having their First Annual Hope Gala. Held at the Villa Di Felicita in Tyler, the event will include a cocktail hour, dinner, short program, and live auction. Mr. Rigsby wants the first Hope Gala to be an evening where people can “enjoy a meal together and lift each other’s spirits while we hear stories of hope.” Furthermore, they will be honoring this year’s “Women of Hope” - 30 women chosen to represent For The Silent while educating their community and raising funds for the cause. One of these Women of Hope, Mandy Glasscock, shared what inspired her to work with For The Silent: “As a mother of three, I want our kids to see that we must also care for others. I pray that our daughters and son grow up to be strong helpers in the world, and we know that starts with them seeing it at home.” The Women of Hope strive to help girls who have been victimized by sex trafficking. When asked what words of support she, as a mother, would give to the victims, Glasscock says that, “their worth is not in what has happened to them. They are truly valued and loved.” Supporting the victims of sex trafficking is a large part of For The Silent’s work. Providing safety for the girls is the first step, and helping them to feel empowered is the next.

For The Silent provides several programs to help educate the community on sex trafficking. They offer the only program for girls in Smith County on probation, and it is making a huge impact, as the girls on probation give valuable intel. Rigsby claims that these girls are their “eyes and ears on the street” because they see sexual exploitation every day. With For The Silent’s help, these girls are now empowered to help keep their friends safe as well. Furthermore, For The Silent has trained thousands of law enforcement officers, child protective services investigators, and other professionals. Their ultimate goal is to have these individuals capable of identifying victims, helping them find freedom, and gathering evidence against traffickers. In this way, For The Silent has created their own response team to collaborate with them on spotting sex trafficking in the area. To learn more about the ways For The Silent helps girls in East Texas, Mr. Rigsby has generously answered our questions below: Congratulations on For The Silent’s 10 year anniversary! 

Could you tell me about some of the greatest accomplishments For The Silent has had over the
past decade?

Rigsby: Thank you! It has been an amazing journey… Whenever a high-risk youth from our prevention program contacts us to tell about how she rescued a peer, or got help when she was approached by a trafficker. We gave her the tools she needed to stand up for herself, her sisters, and her friends.

For instance, one of our clients attended our 10 week prevention program, and she went on to rescue a young girl from sexual exploitation in Tyler. She saw the girl crying in the backseat of a car as it pulled into a motel. Our client had been trained in our program to spot sex trafficking and contact law enforcement.

Another highlight is when our online monitoring team found a 12-year-old girl being sexually exploited online. They were able to intervene just days before her trafficker was going to move her to California. This same online monitoring team has located multiple missing Texas children being trafficked in other states and alerted law enforcement.

We have testified in federal cases and helped to send four traffickers to prison. Our work with survivors has made them feel empowered and safe throughout the court process - whether it’s making sure she has her favorite snacks before she testifies, or a stress ball to hold while she’s on the stand. These are huge accomplishments, thinking back to 10 years ago when we were feeling like no one knew this problem was affecting our community!

How do you plan to implement change or awareness of sex trafficking in the East Texas community?

Rigsby: We are working to see traffickers and buyers held responsible. We want to make sure the community is hearing the true narrative of sex trafficking. It is usually not kidnapping or physical bondage. It is more common for vulnerable girls to be preyed upon by people who pretend to care for them. Traffickers most often use seduction, befriending, or coercion to target these at-risk youth. By combining love and affection with tactics of power and control, the trafficker manipulates youth into believing the trafficker is the only person who cares about them and can meet
their needs.

When the victims are free, the real battle begins. They face fear, shame, trauma triggers, stigmatization, and retaliation by their traffickers. It’s a long, hard journey to restore survivors. That’s why we are passionate about prevention. We want high-risk girls to recognize their worth and avoid exploitative situations.

How does For The Silent help to educate, empower, and mentor girls?

Rigsby: Through our I Have A Voice program. “IHAV” is our 10-week prevention education program reaching teen girls most vulnerable to sexual exploitation. The program embraces an empowerment approach and a variety of activities which cultivate self-reflection, peer empathy, and knowledge to help young women identify potentially exploitive situations and find a way out. The program incorporates survivor testimonies and examples of peer intervention to encourage participants to see themselves as a powerful voice of change with given knowledge they want to share with their friends.

How are workers trained to help girls in East Texas?

Rigsby: Our biggest goal in training is to open people’s eyes to what they already see. Healthcare workers, for instance, often see traffickers posing as boyfriends or family bringing their victims into the ER at night for treatment. Nurses and doctors report noticing something was not right but not knowing what. Law enforcement are trained to recognize these victims who are under the control of a trafficker. With people able to see and collaborate, we make sure the most vulnerable in our community don’t fall through the cracks.

What sort of community training and prevention classes does For The Silent offer?

Rigsby: We provide an all-day community training designed to give community members an in-depth understanding of commercial sexual trafficking with a focus in East Texas. People gain an understanding of traffickers’ recruitment tactics, how demand fuels the problem, and ways to get involved in
our work.

As Mrs. Glasscock says, “It could be any of us in these situations.” The sex trafficking issue in our world is not something we can turn a blind eye to and hope it disappears. As a community, we must fight its prevalence. For The Silent has outlined some ways in which we can support their cause. 

We can donate — Most of their funding comes from financial donations which help them to sustain and expand their work.

We can learn — This issue is often misunderstood and unrecognized. Individuals must become educated on how this affects our community and how to help eradicate it. We can attend community trainings, or simply “like” For The Silent on Facebook to learn more.

We can attend — For The Silent is celebrating their first Hope Gala on November 3rd. We can show support for their cause, and all of the proceeds go to their work.

We can volunteer — For The Silent requires volunteers with a variety of skills.

Together, we can fight the sex trafficking issue within our community. It starts with our community standing together, as a voice for the silent and as a voice of Hope.

 

 

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