Prepare to be saddened, and alarmed.
Every day, right here in the Portland Metro area, trafficked children are being horrendously abused. Together with the committed people in his organization, Northwest Giving Hope Ministries Executive Director Corey Stark is bound and determined to do something about it.
“The reality is, anyone can buy a child within an hour if they have the right connections,” says Stark. “It’s just a matter of pulling out a cell phone.”
The Multnomah County Sex Trafficking Collaborative Website provides a good overview of the problem that defines NWGH’s mission: “Sex Trafficking involves the recruitment, harboring, transporting, obtaining, or providing a person for the purpose of a sexual act by use of force, fraud, or coercion in exchange for something of value. In cases where the individual is under the age of 18, the use of force, fraud or coercion is not necessary to prove exploitation.”
Stark: “Children are being trafficked and raped every day, right here in our communities. Interstate trafficking rings involve millions of dollars and hundreds of players. Children are just a percentage of those enslaved and trafficked.”
Statistics from the Multnomah County site bear out Stark’s troubling scenario:
“As of July 2019, local jail intelligence shows currently 463 minors and 1285 adults estimated to be victims of sex trafficking. Intelligence also shows 1161 suspected and prosecuted traffickers.”
Stark confirms that these statistics are just the tip of the iceberg, only those cases that have come to the attention of authorities.
Stark’s experience as a keynote speaker on trafficking awareness has led him to some alarming truths that he believes law-abiding, otherwise responsible citizens don’t want to acknowledge, or can’t stomach. “I’m not suggesting people don’t want trafficking to stop or don’t think what’s happening is horrific,” he says, “but for a considerable percentage of adults, trafficking awareness is something they turn away from.”
“We want to increase awareness and facilitate involvement. These kids are worth saving.”
Childhood homelessness plays a role, making certain children vulnerable to soulless traffickers and their despicable, often pedophilic, “customers.” Another alarming statistic from a study cited at the Multco site: almost 50% of all trafficking activity has some connection to criminal gangs.
Stark hints at more dire possibilities: “How many broken-home families actually know where their child is when the child is transitioning from Mom to Dad’s house in a 24-hour period? This is where people get defensive, but the reality is, kids are available, and the traffickers know this.”
Stark asserts that some vulnerable children may be prostituted two or three times a day. “These are not technically abductions” he says, “but a deplorable and criminal situation where children are subjected to quick sex in a hotel room.”
Asked about the difference between a trafficked child and a child that is simply abused, Stark says, “from the standpoint of our organization, child abuse is any physical or mental injury to a child by any adult figure in their life. Child trafficking is the illegal movement (across town or around the world) of children, for money, and for the express purpose of sexual exploitation.”
Formed in 2015, NWGH’s mission is to concentrate on the latter, and Stark’s job as executive director is to help people understand that the nonprofit foundation stands ready to help these children right here, right now. As part of the foundation’s ambitious business plan, a House of Hope is in the works, a place where trafficked children can get the professional care they need to overcome their experiences and become adjusted, productive members of society.
From the business plan: “The House of Hope [will be] our first home. HOH will serve children who have been commercially sexually exploited and trafficked. The HOH will provide a safe home where youths can heal from the significant trauma they face and reduce the risk of further harm.”
Up and running right now is the NWGH Thrift Shop, at 1702 Washington Street, Oregon City, OR 97045, which collects antiques, clothes, estate sale finds and collectable wonders and offers them for sale at a fair price, with all proceeds going to the operating costs and launch of the House of Hope.
Asked what people who want to help right now can do, Stark had several excellent suggestions. “Donations to our cause are extremely important,” he says, “and we greatly appreciate any help that can be given in terms of collaborative efforts to acquire land for our first and subsequent Houses of Hope.”
“Also, if you can donate to the Thrift Shop (quality collectables, antiques and other saleable items only, please!) or come by and check out our inventory, that’s also a huge help.”
Volunteers are always welcome to get involved and support the cause. Stark urges those interested in supporting NWGH to contact him directly at 503-898-9382, or email the organization at email@example.com.
Before signing off, Stark makes a special appeal to men, asking them to assertively advocate for kids that have no voice and little hope of changing their circumstances. “More men need to act,” he says. “Stop ranting about ‘what I’d do if this happened to my daughter’ and stand up for all children caught up in this horrible web of degenerate lust, greed, and exploitation.”
Stark also makes mention of a dynamic his involvement has familiarized him with, the issue of how best to allocate charitable contributions. “Think about where your annual charitable contributions will go this year,” he says.
“Don’t just look for a write-off at the next big gala event where you can dress up and buy a beach trip for $3000. Be intentional in your contributions. Give to organizations like NWGH, that strive quietly and privately to provide the best possible outcomes for the most vulnerable among us.”
It is hard to imagine an organization more deserving than Northwest Giving Hope.
In closing, Stark recalls a moment at which the import of the mission to help trafficked children was driven home for him. “A woman came up to me at the shop, introduced herself, and mentioned she had seen a news report on NWGH.”
The woman shared a family story pertaining to the trafficking issue, and after listening, Stark said, “Wouldn’t it be tremendous if one of our survivors came through the program, healed, and did something wonderful with their life, perhaps even cured cancer?”
The woman reached out and said, “Yes. But wouldn’t it also be wonderful if one of the girls completed a program like this and became a great mom?”
The woman had shown him that while there are no limitations to what children surviving trafficking can accomplish, if every single child rescued from this awful trade was to become an unconditionally loving parent, it would positively change generations.
“It melted my heart,” he says, “and continues to choke me up to this day.”
NEXT MONTH: Corporatism and Child Trafficking: Is there a better way?