When I first got to WUSA9, I interviewed Andrea Powell. She is a blonde bad-ass crime-fighter, and pimp-chaser. Not many people you can say that about. Andrea started her own non-profit called Fair Girls, in the DC area, to help survivors of sex trafficking. She’s now one of my friends. I learn so much from her.
Before I moved to DC, I thought this was something that happened to other people. Then, I started talking to Andrea, and meeting survivors. It can start off very simply, with a guy commenting on a teenage (ages 12-14) girl’s Instagram pictures. And these traffickers don’t have to fit the mold of what you think – some of them are young, good-looking men. It starts off with a compliment, then he “grooms” the young girl to be dependent on his attention. Andrea says they look for girls with a tough home situation, and low-self-esteem. Then, they meet and before you know it, the relationship turns sexual, she runs away from home, and now she’s totally dependent on him. So, when he turns her onto his friends and says “if you loved me, you would” she has no choice. And so it begins.
There are a whole host of other scenarios of course, but this is one that Andrea and two other crime-fighting women discussed with a classroom of teenage girls in NE DC recently.
DC prosecutor Kenya Davis says she’s sick of seeing young girls victimized, and joined forces to speak to a dozen or so junior high students in NE DC in January.
Davis said a sex trafficker isn’t always some guy stealing a girl and putting her in a van, it starts out slow, they find girls where they spend their time, on Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook, “They’re liking that picture, they’re telling the young lady, you’re pretty, let’s meet up, let’s get to know each other better.”
The students also got to hear from a survivor firsthand. Former Capitol Hill staffer Natasha Guynes escaped from a bad home situation to the District when she was 20 years old.
She started doing escort work, and descended into a world of prostitution and drugs, “I experienced a lot of traumas, physical abuse as a child ….people preying on me.”
Guynes is bravely sharing her story so one day none of these dozen or so students will suffer as she did.
Guynes also just launched a non-profit called Her Resiliency Center to help and mentor vulnerable 18-25 year-old women.
If you or someone you know needs help, call the National Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888. FAIR Girls’ crisis number is 1-855-900-3247. Both numbers are confidential.
I’m proud to say after our story aired, 4 people called Fair Girls’ hotline number, needing help. This is why we do what we do.