“All that’s needed for the triumph of evil, is for good men to do nothing”
Update:: Thanks to all the fabulous advocacy and refusal to remain silent, the city restored its funding to SARC advocates on May 21. Thanks for all of your support, everyone!
An open letter to Mayor Hales & Portland City Commissioners,
It’s 2 am, and as the majority of Portlanders are sleeping safe and dry in their beds. I wake to the sound of my phone with a fourteen year old girl, who has just been sexually assaulted by several 30-50 year old men in order to make money for her pimp, on the other side. She’s huddled in the Lloyd center parking garage with no place to sleep knowing if she returns to him he will beat her for not meeting her $500 quota for the evening. I call her a cab to Harry’s Mother as I wipe the sleep from my own eyes and jump into my car with enough time to stop at McDonalds so I can meet her with a hug and a warm meal. While I sit with her, safe for the first time in two months; I know there are 100 other commercially sexually exploited youth still out in the rain trying to survive in a city that sleeps while they are raped, beaten, and neglected.
During my time as a SARC advocate for two years, I met with countless numbers of commercially sexually exploited youth just like the one described above—sometimes as young as 11. The Sexual Assault Resource Center provides a service that is invaluable in keeping Portland’s children safe and intervening when they are not. By providing a confidential space for case management, crisis response, and advocacy; they are the gateway for Portland’s most vulnerable citizens to access safety, support, resources, and a way out of a violent cycle that for many years the city turned a blind eye to.
Over the last 5 years, Portland finally woke up to the reality that our children were being sex trafficked in our own backyards— childhoods stolen by adult men willing to pay $50 to rape fifteen year olds. The funding provided by the city to establish a collaborative effort of SARC advocates, Janus Youth housing specialists, law enforcement units such as the East Precinct prostitution coordination team, and LifeWorks NW mental health therapists has resulted in over 350 youth receiving the services owed to them. Since SARC started providing advocacy to sex trafficking survivors, prosecution of pimps and johns has increased by 350%—owed primarily to the fact that the young victims have felt so empowered by this microcosm of service providers and community of survivors, they were willing to testify in trials.
The young survivors I worked with while at SARC are the most courageous, creative, compassionate people I have ever met, and with continued support they will undoubtedly develop into some of the city’s greatest leadership in the years to come. However, these children’s lives are at risk every day and if these important programs are cut, we will be putting the city’s most vulnerable citizens even further at risk.
Mayor Hales and commissioners, should you decide to cut funding to these services, you will be complicit in removing the only lifelines many of these children have ever had. To say that protecting sex trafficking victims is not the city’s job is a travesty and speaks to the need for more services–not less– to both keep children safe and to teach the leaders & adults in Portland that we do, in fact have a responsibility to protect the children who live here. I am requesting that you continue to fund The Sexual Assault Resource Center and its important community partners. Decorative fountains can wait—our children cannot.
For more about city budget cuts watch this video (shoutout to one of the most amazing advocates and friends I know–Tanell Morton!): http://www.kgw.com/news/Sex-trafficking-programs-on-the-citys-chopping-block–208023061.html
Make 5 calls, send 5 e-mails, attend a budget hearing : https://www.facebook.com/notes/sarc-oregon/child-victims-of-sex-trafficking-budget-cuts-and-how-you-can-help/542378392472086