With the theme “In Her Shoes,” the night focused on the reality of sex trafficking. Attendees were asked to consider the perspective of survivors and learned it can happen to anyone. We displayed information on the common triggers in South Alabama that may lead people into human trafficking.
- Poverty. Mobile has a 23% poverty level with 70-80% poverty in single-parent households. Where there is poverty, there are fewer choices. Where there are fewer choices, there is a higher rate of human trafficking.
- Foster care. Specific to Mobile- there are currently over 500 children in the foster care system in Mobile County alone. 77% of children who have been in the child welfare system will end up being trafficked.
- Sexual trauma. Histories and childhoods of emotional, physical, and/or sexual abuse and trauma are often precursors to a life of being trapped in trafficking.
- Substance abuse. Traffickers will often utilize forced substance abuse or a vulnerability to substance abuse and addiction as a means to control and exploit.
- Homelessness. On any night in Alabama, there are over 1,400 people living on the streets. Once on the streets, desperate choices are made to survive. Within 48 hours of leaving home, 1 in 3 teens will be lured into prostitution
- Accessibility. Mobile is located at the intersection of two major interstates, I-10 & I-65. This makes Mobile a highly popular transient city.
Four pairs of shoes sat on pedestals, each from a girl who was either a victim or is now a survivor of sex trafficking and exploitation. With each pair of shoes were the stories of their four individual paths through the life of trafficking and exploitation.
This was such a powerful visual as it conveyed the humanity and relatability of each exploited individual, and it removed the stigma so often related to prostitution and sex trafficking. Everyone could empathize with the girls who wore those shoes. All of us, at one time or another, have been vulnerable to the same imprisoning triggers.
We had some incredible speakers that passionately shared their experience and heart on the issue. Our guests heard from Eye Heart World’s founders, Brian and Season Russo, Whitney Maholovich, Alabama Probation & Parole, Crystal Yarbrough, Rose Center Director, and Pastor Joshua Sullivan as host for the evening.
One of the biggest moments of the night was having Janiece Charlez speak of her firsthand experience with the Eye Heart World Alabama Team. Her daughter Natalie was one of our first clients in Mobile.
During the gala, a video of Natalie’s story was shared on how she was trafficked all along the south coast, the journey of how she and her mother built a relationship with Eye Heart World, and unfortunately, how Natalie entered back into the life of sex trafficking.
As the video about Natalie ended, Janiece was introduced and the audience erupted into a standing ovation. She shared how Natalie was a normal sixteen year old girl and just fell for the wrong boy. Unfortunately, the same manipulation and coercion that traps millions into sex trafficking trapped Natalie and ultimately lead to her murder.
Janiece, now a public speaker and advocate for the fight against sex trafficking, shared how important the fight is and how much education and light needs to be shed on the issue. Because of resources like Eye Heart World and The Rose Center, girls like Natalie will now have the chance to choose freedom.
Natalie’s story has served as the inspiration for the development of the Rose Center.
Because of your generous support and those in attendance, the gala was successful in the fight against human trafficking in more ways than one. By supporting the Rose Center, the freedom for every daughter that comes through its doors has been made possible!
Chains were released and walls were broken down that night. We were overwhelmed by the response! Minds and views were changed on how sex trafficking exists in South Alabama. Many were finally able to see that Mobile, and surrounding areas, are hotspots for human trafficking and currently do not have the education needed to properly fight this issue.
We were able to share that we are partnered in combating the issue with local law enforcement, medical professionals, social workers, educational professionals, youth detention centers, women's’ resource centers, and more - all who were in attendance. We are now on the frontlines!
Ways to get involved:
We are always in need of passionate and dedicated female volunteers within our Rose Center. We are always excited and honored to have new volunteers express interest and get involved!
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We have an ever-changing list of needs at our Rose Center. It can be food, clothing, appliances, furniture, repairs, therapy materials such as art supplies, and storage materials.
Please see our Amazon Wish List (http://a.co/cWYsPUY) or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for a list of these needs.
Tour of the Center
We will be offering tours and visits to the Rose Center during our closed hours on Mondays where we will be happy to let you see our Center and answer any questions you may have. We do not offer tours during any other days for the privacy of our clients.
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