Interning with Project Cultivate
Prior to joining Project Cultivate I had very little knowledge on the sex industry. I knew it was an issue more widespread than people realized, but I had no knowledge of the details of it. One of my best friends in my senior year of High School had told me about how sex trafficking was an issue in the United States as well as abroad, and I specifically remember her telling me that massage parlors that were open late--as in later than a normal spa--weren’t really massage parlors at all. They were where men went to find prostitutes.
All of this news really shook me and made me wonder if I had ever seen someone being sex-trafficked right in front of my eyes without even knowing. It made me reflect on the times I had gone to the nail salon next to the “massage parlor” when I was little, or that I had just picked up donuts for church next to the other “massage parlor” with the blacked out windows down the street.
Chances are, you’ve never actually seen someone be trafficked. It can be a subtle act and happen without the victim even being aware of it. It can take the form of verbal coercion, can be a boyfriend who buys you things and then makes you believe that he “owns” you and therefore you have to do whatever he tells you, or it can be a result of someone who’s been physically abducted and sexually assaulted or abused.
I’ve had a really eye-opening experience with Project Cultivate. Because of them I have been exposed to a lot of things that I was previously unaware of. It gave me an outlet to talk about this issue with peers while providing me with opportunities to raise awareness about this injustice, and do what I can to fight it as a college student. Project Cultivate is a group of people that are fighting the silence and doing something proactive to help the women that no longer want to be enslaved.
I’ve enjoyed being able to stretch myself and do more than what I thought I was capable of and see the small victories that we as a group have accomplished--from receiving a grant from Walmart, to meeting someone who has made it out of the sex industry and is now working their way up through a well-known corporation. It has been so rewarding to hear the stories of survivors and know that they appreciate any help and awareness we can bring.
By: Erika Kral, Community Outreach Intern