Thursday, September 17, 2009

Courtney's House

In the US, the average age of entry into the commercial sex industry is 12 years old, according to the US Department of Justice.Under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, commercial sex with anyone under the age of 18 is automatically trafficking, since minors are not of age to give meaningful consent; had no money changed hands, these would be cases of statutory rape.

Unfortunately, many survivors of commercial sexual exploitation of a minor (CSEC) are either treated as criminals or lack access to services. Courtney's House in the DC metro area is working to address this issue.

"I remember being 10 years old and my mother putting makeup on me and telling me she loved me, then opening her bedroom door where a man sat there waiting for me. My mother then put me in the room and closed the door. She told me it wouldn't take long."
-- Kelly, 17 years old. Survivor Testimonial (Courtney's House Fundraising Letter).

According to Courtney's House, "One of the largest forms of domestic sex trafficking in the U.S. involves traffickers who coerce children to enter the commercial sex industry through the use of a variety of recruitment and control mechanisms in strip clubs, street-based prostitution, escort services and brothels." Pimps and other child traffickers tend to prey on runaways and homeless youth, because these children are particularly vulnerable. However, traffickers do not only target these populations.

Courtney's House defines the commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) as consisting of "sexual abuse by adults and payment in cash or kind to the child, or a third person or persons, and is a fundamental violation of children’s rights. Commercial sexual exploitation is a contemporary form of child slavery."

"I'm not sure if I was 5 or when my mother started selling me to men. Usually, she sold me for small amounts of drugs. When I was 13 years old, I ran away and met a man 20 years my senior, who told me he would take care of me. However, it wasn't long before he made me work on the street I had to bring a quota of $800 every night.
- Beth, 17 years old. Survivor Testimonial (Courtney's House Fundraising Letter)

The Courtney's House Initiative started in August 2008 to comprehensively address the needs of CSEC survivors and to end domestic sex trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation of all children. Founded by Tina Fundt, a survivor of domestic minor sex trafficking, the organization focuses on providing long-term shelter for sex trafficked girls between the ages of 11 and 17.

Courtney's House also works to raise awareness and conducts street outreach to connect with current CSEC victims. In addition to providing shelter, Courtney's House includes counseling and educational services, and aftercare services for participants as they transition out of Courtney's House.

Currently, Courtney's House is preparing to open its doors in January, 2010. In the interim, they "remain committed. . . to providing girls with the skills and safe environment required to get them out of their trafficking situations so that they can go on to live healthy, happy lives."

"When I was 14 years old, my mom asked me to get some things from the store. I took a little longer than I thought. When I came out of the store it was getting dark. A man approached me in a car and asked me if I needed a ride. I said 'no'and crossed the street. He followed me for about 3 or 4 blocks, and then he got out of the car. I ran but he caught me and threw me into the trunk of the car. I never knew what a pimp was before that day."
- Tammy, 16 years old. Survivor Testimony (Courtney's House Fundraising Letter)

As Courtney's House prepares to open its doors and to build on the service it is already providing to survivors, it needs assistance. Currently, Courtney's House is looking for volunteers to help with fundraising, events, and awareness. Women 21+ can also help with their street outreach program.

Courtney's House will host a
Youth Rally on September 19th, and Courtney's House is involved in the September 26th Stop Child Trafficking Now Walk.

Courtney's House is also seeking giftcard donations to stores like Target and Old Navy to help provide clothing for program participants and to restaurants to cover meals before and after medical appointments. Any giftcard amount would be greatly appreciated:

Courtney's House
P.O. Box 12054
Washington, DC 20005
If you would like to volunteer or donate contact:
Natasha Adams
Development Coordinator

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