The Painful Cracks in our Culture
And there I was, sitting in a room I stumbled into at college orientation, listening to 2 students speak on the fight against sex trafficking. My mind automatically flashed through the different scenes in Taken, which is about the extent to which I understood what was being talked about. Even with those scenes in mind, I kind of knew that this sort of thing didn’t actually happen. However, I felt a tug on my heart to dive into the issue a little more - and that was all it took to realize what this all really meant; that what was in front of me is the heart of the very deepest cracks our culture is dealing with today.
One year later I sit here in the same room knowing that this project is dealing with one of the most prominent issues in our culture. Along with the Project Cultivate leadership team, I have spent this last year, especially these last few months, working incredibly hard to refine this project’s values. We have looked at the needs and dynamic of the communities that surround us, what we can provide and be doing to fulfill those needs, and how this can happen in an impactful, positive way.
So, what we are looking at here is the sex industry: the 97 billion dollar sex industry. And it goes much deeper than that. We are looking at the people that make up this industry. We are looking at the little girl whose boyfriend shared her with his friends in highschool. We are looking at the the mom whose only means of money is stripping down the street. We are looking at the woman working in the high end brothel in Vegas. We are looking at the woman that was kidnapped, drugged, and physically forced to work. We are looking at the porn star making millions.
Regardless of the details of someone's story, one statement stands true - freedom should always be an option. No person should be bound to one way of life, one sense of worth, or one job for reasons out of their own control. When somebody is emotionally or physically coerced into the industry, statistics and personal stories tell us that it is nearly impossible to get away. And even if they do leave, within a year they are right back in. This is mostly due to lack of money, job experience, and motivation. We are determined to making that pathway out, a more clear and realistic.
Our mission is “To cultivate restorative communities which affirm identity in survivors of the sex industry through professional, strength based development”
Project Cultivate very recently switched over from being called “My Rescue”. With these changes, our space and culture in which we are working has changed. Moving forward, we will very clearly be focused on two spaces: Our communities and working side by side with survivors.
The community part is essential - we will be acting in three ways to build our community up to fulfill this mission. 1) Communicating- Open, honest, communication will be taking place. Keep your eyes on our calendar! 2) Committing - You can commit in some way to the mission! Whether it be joining our team as an intern, volunteering, submitting a blog entry, committing to speak up when you are talking with your friends, or educating yourself. There are so many ways to commit yourself, contact us for more information about this! 3) Connecting - Do you own a local business, or are you a part of a club or organization? We would love to connect with you to create a partnership. These women are not separate from the community, they are a part of it. We need employers ready to interview them for jobs or support their job training process and organizations ready to have open arms for them to be apart of. This is the community side of our mission.
The other essential aspect is working side by side with these women to “affirm identity through professional strength based development”. We are creating a program which these women can go through that will teach tangible, real world, professional skills and ends in employment or further education. More about this program can be found on our website.
We by all means do not have all the answers and no, we do not know exactly what we are doing. But we do know that our team is called to be standing right here - in the middle of this sticky place. Just because it is a tough issue does not mean it should be ignored by any means. So this year we are excited to learn and to transform. We are excited to work really hard and celebrate every small victory. We are excited to fail and learn enormously. We are excited to dive fully into this community ready to meet new people, share our stories and to hear yours.
So if you are like I was last year, stumbling upon this huge issue you didn’t even know about, and maybe a little unsure - it’s okay. I do urge you to make yourself a little uncomfortable and step a little closer. As William Wilberforce said, “Now, you can never again say you did not know.”
By: Shay Suiter, Co-President