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Abstract
“Survivors of prostitution propose a policy reform platform including three main pillars of priority: criminal justice reforms, fair employment, and standards of care. The sexual exploitation of prostituted individuals has lasting effects which can carry over into many aspects of life. In order to remedy these effects and give survivors the opportunity to live a full and free life, we must use a survivor-centered approach to each of these pillars to create change. First, reform is necessary in the criminal justice system to recognize survivors as victims of crime and not perpetrators, while holding those who exploited them fully responsible. Second, reform is necessary to assist survivors in finding fair employment by offering vocational training, financial counseling, and educational scholarships, as well as offering employment opportunities that utilize survivors’ vast array of skills and interests. Finally, standards of care for survivors exiting prostitution should focus on supporting survivors in our journeys and support short- and long-term resources that empower us. These systemic changes are necessary to recognize survivors as the valuable human beings we are and to support survivors in fulfilling our vast potential.” Read More at Dignity: A Journal on Sexual Exploitation and Violence: Vol. 3: Iss. 3, Article 10. 

 

The Cornerstone Church in partnership with Shared Hope International and the Defenders USA is hosting the Equip for Freedom Conference.

Speakers include:

  1. Beth Grant, Co-founder and Director of Project Rescue
  2. Vincent DeVivo, Community Outreach Specialist for the United States Attorney’s Office
  3. Shamere McKenzie, CEO Sun Gate Foundation

Corner Stone

reportA huge thanks to all our donors who participated in the 2015, 5 for Five Campaign.  Through your generous donations, we were able to provide textbook scholarships to 8 survivors.  Click on the link for the full report: Spring 2016 Textbook Scholarship1

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According to the Global Slavery Index, there are over 35.6 million victims of trafficking worldwide and at least 200,000 in the United States. Human trafficking has an abundance of factors and, consequently, an abundance of ways for us to make a difference. We at Sun-Gate do so by focusing on survivors of trafficking and providing access to the resources they need to get an education. We are the only organization in the country whose sole purpose is the focus on education for survivors.

Join the Hope Rising Campaign!

I want to offer your organization the chance to join us in making a difference as well, through our Hope Rising Campaign. The goal of the fundraiser is to mobilize organizations like yours to raise raise awareness about the issue of human traffickcing while raising funds to provide financial assistance towards tuition and textbooks for a survivor of human trafficking.

How it works!

  • Decide if you want to help survivors with tuition, textbooks or both.
  • You can choose to raise the money in whatever way fits your organization best.
    • If you decide to host a human trafficking awareness event, Sun Gate will be happy to provide a speaker.
    • Below are are a few ideas of how you can raise funds.
  • Set an attainable goal that your organization fall into as outlined below.
    • High School Organization – $200
    • College Organization – $500
    • Local Organization – $1000
  • Sun Gate will be happy to brainstorm with you about planning an event.
  • Sun Gate will provide additional materials for your event upon request.
  • You can host your event anytime between now and May 31, 2016.
  • To sign-up to participate, please email Jocelyn Moore at Jocelyn@sun-gate.org with the name of your organization, school and state.

 

The road to restoration is a long one for a trafficking survivor. But your participation in the Hope Rising Fundraiser can make it that much easier.

Join our Hope Rising Campaign today!!!

Ways to FUndraise (1) - Hope Rising

Keisha Head

I can’t quite put my finger on it, but there is something fresh in the air, promising even. I can smell it, taste it on my lips. Am I the only one with this feeling? I know, I know… it’s that New Year’s optimism. That glass–half-full feeling or the out–with-the-old–and-in-with-the-new attitude. Yes, I’ve been bitten by the New Year’s bug. Considering all the great things I foresee in 2016, rightfully so.

A new year springs forth new beginnings, new possibilities, and a fresh start. Many people ring in the year refreshed, attempting new resolutions (that will be forgotten by spring), starting new projects, ending bad relationships, finding new love. The list is endless. You feel empowered to do the unthinkable, and nothing can hold you back, right? Well, wrong. Lack of empowerment, opportunity and support annihilates any dream and limits the ability to move forward, especially in the lives of Human Trafficking survivors.

A few months ago I had the privilege to encounter a remarkable young lady. In the middle of the night, I received a call from a desperate and distraught mother. She explained that she was in another state and her daughter and granddaughter were in Georgia, fleeing a trafficker. Frantically, she begged me to help her. I called the young lady and she shared her trauma and that she had just escaped her trafficker of 6 years. The only thing she had was her three year old and the clothes on her back. Nothing else mattered… she was free! I thrust into action to secure other items for her. Long story short, the young lady ended up in another bad situation.

During it all I stayed close and constant. I knew the disaster would soon come. I was patient.

On Christmas Day she called me in desperate need. She called ME! I understand the strength it must have taken to trust me. Because of those who empowered me during my ordeal, I am now blessed to be in a position to empower others. I quickly reached out to the National Survivor Network for help. Survivors in every state galvanized resources for this young lady. Today she has options to travel to California (a place she’s dreamed of traveling to), Montana, Texas, and a few other states. What seemed like a powerless situation is now hopeful because of empowering opportunities that are limitless.

There are also larger efforts being made this year by organizations such as the Sun Gate Foundation to unfold initiatives that empower the lives of survivors through education. In California, Runaway Girl and Ending the Game empower through awareness and provide employment opportunities to survivors. In New York, at the GEMS’ Survivor Leadership Institute and Resource Center survivors are empowered through Leadership. Online, Rebecca Bender Ministries empowers through mentorship and The National Survivor Network empowers survivors through unity. In Washington, DC, 7 Layers Captive empowers through the arts. Just to name a few, I’ve chosen to highlight these survivor-led organizations because they stand as a true testament of Empowerment.

As a survivor of Human Trafficking, one of the most powerful tools given to me has been empowerment. I have the power to design my life in a way that works best for me and have favorable options for my future. Survivors are no longer limited. For the first time in my life the saying “You can be ANYTHING you want to be” is no longer a cliché. Today Survivors have a HOPE for Tomorrow.

Can you smell it? That smell in the air is opportunity!

Written By:

 Keisha Head
Sun Gate Foundation Secretary of Board

As a survivor of domestic child sex trafficking Keisha speaks, trains, and advocates throughout all the various state agencies who have contact with potential CSEC victims. She has been called upon by the US Department of Justice as an expert and advocates for legislation that protects victims of human trafficking. She uses her personal story of being a victim, turned survivor, emerged leader, to serve as the voice for countless others who aren’t strong enough to speak for themselves.  Click here to read more about Keisha. 

“Education was my ‘way out’ of a family locked in generational cycles of violence, substance abuse, mental illness and poverty.” Kate Price, Ph.D. candidate and Survivor. Click here to read more about Kate’s story.

With your help we can provide assistance to many other survivors like Kate.   Immediately show your support and participate in our 5 for Five Fundraiser. Through education, survivors can be empowered to confidently pursue their dreams and become more active and vital members of society. In addition, survivors also often position themselves to “give back” after completing their education, by using their combination of training and direct experience to actively assist other trafficking victims.

Purpose & Goal of the 5 for `Five Fundraiser

Through the 5 for Five Fundraiser, Sun Gate Foundation is raising funds to help purchase text books for survivors of human trafficking enrolled in a post-secondary educational program in Spring 2016 semester.  The average cost of a semester’s worth of text books is around $600.

Our goal is to raise at least $3000.  This can finance the text books for Spring 2016 for at least five survivors.

We need your help!!!

If you are a believer in education, and would like to empower survivors click here to make a small $5 donation to Sun Gate Foundation. Also, please forward this Fundraiser to 5 of your friends or family members who may be interested in donating $5 or more and ask them to forward the campaign to an additional 5 individuals who may be interested.

Be a part of the solution and participate in our fundraiser.  Join us in being a “way out” for survivors of human trafficking around the country like Kate.  Your donation can change a life.

 

5 for Five Fundraiser - Spring 2016.

 

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I cried the first time I walked through the doors of the University of Massachusetts Boston (UMass Boston). My time had finally come to get my Ph.D. For decades I knew I would get my doctorate “someday” and the moment had arrived. I called my husband in tears. I needed to say the words “I am really going to get my Ph.D.” aloud –and for him to hear me – before the reality could truly sink in.

 
Education was my “way out” of a family locked in generational cycles of violence, substance abuse, mental illness and poverty. My mother had dreamed of escaping by going to college in Hawaii, but was told by her abusive father that she could learn everything in the factory where she worked that she could in college. The owners of the family pharmacy where my father worked offered to send him to the local college, but he turned them down. His priority was easy access to drugs rather than an education.

 
From a very early age I knew I needed to get away. My very first memory is of being sexually assaulted by my member of my immediate family in the back of a family friend’s bar. I was preverbal at the time, but I just remember feeling “shattered.” The world had somehow changed, but everyone was acting like nothing had happened. I continued to be physically, sexually, and emotionally abused by multiple members of both sides of my family until early adolescence. During that same time an immediate member of my family commercially sexually exploited me at truck stops and parties to support his drug addiction.

 
I knew I had found my escape route when I began to read in first grade. Books not only gave me a place to flee in my mind, but I also aspired to be like my teacher. She was kind, independent, and smart: my first role model. Learning made me happy and, for the first time, hopeful. I begged my mother to drive me to the town library 30 minutes away. My library card was my first passport. I felt independent and grateful for the opportunity to have a building other than church where I felt safe.

 
The sexual abuse and exploitation finally stopped when I was in middle school. The physical and emotional abuse continued, and so did my resolve to leave my family and my hometown by going to college far away (just as my mother had hoped for herself). In high school, I took several college-level courses at the very university where my father had refused to go. I turned 18 one day and graduated from high school the next. Three months later, my mother drove me college 2 ½ hours away. I had made it.

 
Yet, in many ways my work was only beginning. While my mother had encouraged my college education, she did not have any means to help me pay for my degree. My undergraduate degree took six years to complete because I had to take time off to work. Additionally, my mother died of cancer six months before I graduated. She waited until I had registered for classes to tell me her bone marrow transplant hadn’t worked for fear I would stay home to take of her instead of finishing school. Before she died, my mother told me to follow some friends to Boston and to get my master’s degree. I did both.

 
While receiving my master’s degree I started putting the pieces together about my abuse and exploitation history. “We study our pain,” is a common belief at the Wellesley Centers for Women, a research and action department of Wellesley College, where I now work as a social scientist. I initially focused on prostitution, which led me to the commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC). I had also started therapy during the same time, which also helped me to navigate the “roadmap” of my past. I confronted my abusers during this time and was told to never contact them again. I knew too much.

 
Thankfully I now have a true family and close circle of friends that support and care for me. I have been married for almost 13 years and we have an extraordinary 9 year-old son. Plus, I have been fortunate enough to be a part of a profoundly inspiring tribe of CSEC survivors, including Shamere McKenzie and the Sun Gate Foundation. These peeps, in addition to my Wellesley colleagues, are all encouraging me that the “time is now” for my Ph.D. The call for empirical CSEC research is pressing, even more so, I deserve to realize this final educational aspiration.

Written by Kate Price

 

Hope Rising 4In 2010, President Barack Obama declared January as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.  “I call upon the people of the United States to recognize the vital role we can play in ending modern slavery, and to observe this month with appropriate programs and activities.” In honor of National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, Sun Gate Foundation is asking various groups around the nation to stand with us on Monday, January 26, 2015 for an event called “Hope Rising.”

Human trafficking is an epidemic that is plaguing our nation with disregard to human life and dignity.  Many of the stories we hear about human trafficking are disheartening, sad and lacking hope.  Despite, these atrocities we hear about on a daily basis there is hope.  Let us stand together knowing there is hope while being the light in this dark world of human trafficking.

 

Hope Rising” is a symbol of hope and light for:

  • Human trafficking victims and survivors
  • For better laws or the use of existing laws
  • For service providers and NGO’s addressing the issue of human trafficking
  • For law enforcement to better fight human trafficking cases
  • For legislators and our criminal justice system handling human trafficking cases
  • For community members in playing their role in the fight against human trafficking

We have a long way to go and a lot of work to do in the fight against human trafficking. As we fight and work let us not forget to hopeful.

How does “Hope Rising” Work? 

  1. Select an outdoor location to hold the event on January 26, 2015.  (It is winter in some places and it will be cold but this is a challenge. Human trafficking victims endure torture under worst conditions.)
  2. Reach out to at least 5 people in your community/network to stand with you.
  3. Purchase your candles and sky-lanterns here.
  4. You can decide the order of your event. If you wish to stand in silence and then release the sky lanterns you can do so or you can have a short program speaking about human trafficking in your community.
  5. Each person in attendance will make a commitment to self on one step they will take towards the fight to end human trafficking.
  6. Use the hash tag #hoperising
  7. At the end of your program release the sky lanterns
  8. Don’t forget to take pictures and share them on the Sun Gate Facebook page.

holly article 11-23-14Meet Shamere McKenzie, the recently-appointed Chief Executive Officer of the Sun Gate Foundation, a national organization focused on providing support to survivors of human trafficking who wish to gain access to private, continuing, and/or higher education. Why is this mission important to Shamere? Because she herself was once a victim of sex trafficking, and as a young adult pursuing a college education, she has had to overcome many obstacles.

“As a survivor, I know firsthand the stigma and difficulties faced by survivors of sex trafficking,” Shamere says, “And, as the recipient of the first Sun Gate Foundation scholarship, I am a walking example to other survivors that they too can pick up the broken pieces and live a life of their choosing.”  Click here to read the entire article written by Holly Smith.

 

Rebecca Bender PicWhen Sun Gate asked me to be a guest blogger on Education for Trafficking Survivors, I was jumping with joy! This is one of my favorite topics and quite frankly, I believe one of the potential answers to the perplexing question of why survivors often return to their captors.

Why? Why would someone who has been able to find freedom return to bondage? Why don’t birds who have been caged do well in the wild? Why do inmates after years of incarceration find it hard to live in normalcy again? I am by no means calling victims inmates or animals. What I am saying, is that there is something instinctual about returning to the familiar when the unknown is so frightening.

So how is education the answer to victims not returning to the life? {of course there is a conglomerate of answers mixed into a nice concoction and tied with a pretty little neat bow} but one that I think is the most VALUABLE, and rarely addressed, is Economic Empowerment.

Most survivors who have been under the control of a trafficker were lured with a promise. Finding out what the promise was and then helping them to obtain that promise on their own, without their trafficker, becomes something they can anchor themselves to when the storms come. While working in fast food is admirable, “living wage” is well… unlivable. Hope dwindles, circumstances get tough, financial set-backs arise and the zeal toward this newfound freedom fades, like a thick fog rolling in. Will it ever get easier? Will I ever make it out? Will my dreams ever come true?

I remember my first paycheck after getting out of the life. I cried and cried. How do I live on this? How does anyone live on this? I asked God, is this what you saved my life for, to just continue in a different struggle? It’s hard sometimes, to lift our eyes above the cloud of circumstances, and try tirelessly to peer at the promise that seems so far away.

So why is education so incredibly valuable, in helping survivors thrive? Education leads to economic empowerment. It keeps the fog at bay. It keeps our eyes above the clouds. It shows us an end game.

After I got out of trafficking, I went back to community college, taking night classes and online courses after my 40 hours of work a week, still trying to put food on the table for me and my child. I remember getting a raise and was so proud, until I found out that the $50 a month raise put me over the financial need limit and cut my food stamps by $100. So I gained $50 but lost $100. It was the first time I had been on state assistance- standing shamefully in the welfare line. I shouldn’t have been ashamed, that is what assistance is there for, to help people in need. But I was not blind to the looks in the grocery store when someone pulled out their food stamp card, or the jokes about welfare. So I found myself standing in line asking which shame was worse: the painful familiar or the terrifying unknown.

But I kept at it and I stuck with it and I prayed that this too would pass, that God’s plans were to prosper me and that He would reward those that diligently seek Him. This year, I start my Master’s degree. Little by little, I see the fog roll away. I see the idea of self-sustainability for me and my family within reach. Yes, there will be challenges, but the promises my trafficker used like a carrot, to dangle in front of me, are now mine for the taking. I can do this with the support of my friends, family and community; I can do it with the support of organizations like Sun Gate and individual donors. I can see the education that matches my abilities, continuing to eradicate modern day slavery, continuing to change the mindset of our culture and continuing to prevent young men and women from misidentifying trafficking within their own communities. The carrot is no longer dangling, it is in my grasp!

Written by Rebecca Bender

 

 

 

 

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