I heard this quote at the beginning of last semester in a meeting for TCU’s chapter of International Justice Mission. We had just been presented with facts about human trafficking that left me speechless. Here are the main points that I recall:
I can say, without a doubt in my mind, that hearing these last two statistics changed my life.
Let me explain.
Before hearing these facts, I associated human trafficking with a problem “over there.” I never once considered that these issues were happening right here in the United States. I never considered that women who society deemed “sluts” or “strippers” were forced into the industry by their trafficker. I never considered that children would be sold by their parents into slavery.
I never considered these circumstances because I simply didn’t know. But now I do. And I can’t make myself look the other way.
This semester, I have the opportunity to work both with The NET as the social media intern and as the Vice President of Outreach and Marketing for TCU IJM. These two roles allowed me to have a very active part in the Outrun Trafficking campaign, a fundraising effort started by TCU students to raise money through running the Cowtown Marathon. Funds raised went to The NET and to Traffick 911 to fight modern day slavery.
The Outrun Trafficking team was truly the most passionate group of individuals with which I have ever worked. The team met every Wednesday night to discuss details and strategies for fundraising, to plan the events for the week leading up to the Cowtown, to partner with businesses around Fort Worth to participate in profit shares, to design tshirts and stickers to sell and donate to the cause and to everything in between. And never once did it feel like “work.” It felt necessary and fulfilling.
In total, the Outrun Trafficking team raised $21,072 to donate to Traffick911 and The NET. That exceed the goal of $20,000 and there were several members of the team who participated in the half or the full marathon.
While I knew that this was an incredible feat, the impact that this money could have didn’t fully hit me until I was at The NET’s RISE Ceremony, which celebrates women in the RISE Program here in Fort Worth for their progress.
It was at this ceremony that I realized what exactly it was that the team members were running for. Outrun Trafficking wasn’t just for victims of sex trafficking that live thousands of miles away from here.
Outrun Trafficking was for Grace, who graduated RISE, spoke about how Jesus used the program to show her that she could find happiness and freedom, and walked off stage into a loving hug from her husband.
Outrun Trafficking was for Rachel, who fist-pumped her way through the crowd to go up on stage and accept her certificate for completing the next phase of the program.
Outrun Trafficking was for Latasha Jackson-McDougle, the probation officer for the RISE program who works tirelessly to help provide a better life for these ladies.
Outrun Trafficking was for Caroline, who was sold by a family member at 13 years old and sexually exploited throughout her young adult life. Caroline graduated from RISE and spoke at our MASE training about her transformation.
Outrun Trafficking wasn’t just about training for a marathon and raising money to send to fight human trafficking in far away places. Outrun Trafficking was about empowering this community and the individuals that make it.
I sat around the room at the RISE Ceremony looking at the women I was surrounded by. They had overcome exploitation and abuse. They had endured trials and setbacks I couldn’t even imagine. And now, they are creating a new life for themselves and trying to help others along the way.
They are truly Survivor Leaders.
Written by Kelsey Ritchie
Social Media Intern
*some names changed to protect the ladies’ privacy