Thursday, December 17, 2015

This has been a whirl-wind year that has brought many exciting changes for Restoration One Ninety-Nine (R1:99)—a new name, mission, and vision ( ). In fact, the past twelve years have been an amazing, humbling journey as R1:99 engaged with sex trafficking survivors in detention centers, psychiatric hospitals, residential facilities, on the streets, and in community settings. Regardless of the place, each encounter has been an opportunity to walk out the parable of the lost sheep in Luke 15: 4-7, where the good shepherd searches ceaselessly for the one lost lamb. During the past 12 years, we have met many lost lambs along the way, with close to 2,000 youth and adults participating in our prevention and intervention programs. Through their participation, we discovered that in order to best serve survivors of sexual exploitation, we needed a better understanding of childhood sexual trauma and appropriate treatment strategies. We are happy to say that this is now R1:99’s focus, and we are looking forward to new doors opening for us and the survivors we serve in 2016.

I am grateful that many of the survivors still keep in touch with us. Recently, I was contacted by Grace*. We met Grace at the youth detention center when she was just 13 years old. She had been picked up for skipping school but, unbeknownst to authorities, she was being trafficked. During her first stay in detention, Grace refused to engage with anyone when R1:99 came to visit. She kept her eyes down and rarely spoke. After two weeks, she was released to her parents, but in short time she was back in detention, and this time her stay was longer.

Over the next several months she slowly started to trust us, and share bits and pieces of her story. The next time she was released, she went to a group home in the community, where we mentored her over a period of several years. We accompanied her to court, spent time getting to know her family, and held her hand through many difficult times. At age 16 she returned home, only to suffer sexual abuse from her father. She ran away from home, and went missing for over a year. We prayed ceaselessly for her safety and safe return, and one day I received a phone call from her. She was in a horrible situation—although she was not being trafficked, she was living with a large extended family that was clearly taking advantage of her. Grace’s situation went from bad to worse, and she once again dropped-off of our radar for several more years; again, we prayed that the Lord would protect her. She would contact us infrequently, but when we tried to pick-up where we had left off and intervene on her behalf, it was clear that she was not ready for change. Regardless of where Grace was, we ended every conversation telling her we loved her and asking how we could pray for her.

At some point, those prayers took root, and Grace chose to stop running from healthy relationships. She is now 22, ready to work on her GED, and recently married to a good man. While sitting across from her earlier this week, I saw a beautiful young woman who was serious about her future for the first time in her life. She was filled with gratitude for our friendship and how R1:99 had always been there for her. She expressed a strong interest in joining our team to help victims of sexual exploitation. I can tell you that there is no greater joy than seeing someone see their own self-worth and, in so doing, become able to help with the healing process for other survivors of sexual exploitation.

I am so grateful for Grace, but my heart still aches for the literally hundreds of other lost lambs who need our help. It is with hope, and humility that I ask you to prayerfully consider making a year-end financial gift to R1:99 in order that we can continue to be there for survivors of sexual exploitation in 2016. 

Monday, November 30, 2015

We've Re-Branded!

Hello Faithful Followers,

If you are not already aware, we have been in the re-branding phase for most of this year. We are ready to launch the new website on Giving Tuesday. Please take a look around it and let us know your thoughts.


Thursday, April 23, 2015

Faithful in Prayer

            In the last post, I asked for readers to consider coming alongside Restoration Ministries (RM) and standing against domestic sex trafficking through commitment to prayer. Prayer is the backbone of this ministry; RM’s staff devotes time to prayer and worship before each visit at the detention center and psychiatric hospital. We believe that prayer breaks strongholds over these girls, allowing them to see and receive God’s love for them. We also believe that prayer position us to be ready to respond to any need that we encounter with the grace and love of God. Prayer is vital to sustain ministry and reap from the harvest.

            Please pray specifically for the following requests.

1.    A suitable facility in DC that provides living space for clients and room for counseling.
2.   A house to use as a transitional/independent living residence for survivors.
3.   Financial stability to afford rent and run programs.
4.   For healing and clarity over sexual identity issues, which many of our girls struggle to reconcile.
5.    Purpose, reconciliation, and healthy outlets for our girls who self-harm through cutting and suicide attempts.
6.   A business enterprise such as a restaurant or café that would offer financial stability to the ministry and entry-level job skills for our girls.
7.   Free or reduced cost services to create a new website.
8.   Clear message with the rebranding of our ministry.
9.   Clear direction as we update old programs and create new ones.
10. That God would be glorified in all we say and do.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015


            The heart of Restoration Ministries’ (RM) mission involves interaction with at-risk girls so that they can experience God’s love through a genuine relationship. RM’s staff meets girls in their circumstances and seeks to maintain connection long after crisis or situations change. Many of these girls get lost in the juvenile justice system, moving back and forth between detention centers, psychiatric hospitals or foster care because these places cannot meet all their needs. Frustrated and alone, healing seems like a far off dream instead of a present hope. RM offers hope by supporting girls through legal battles, vocation training, counseling services, and finding faith.

            On March 12, 2015, The Washington Post reported a story about an 11-year old girl who had been raped twice and wound up with a conviction in the matter. Her reports were dismissed and the investigations were halted for 6 years. This young girl and her family experienced anger, hurt, confusion, and fear while waiting for someone to acknowledge their reality and enter into their suffering. RM once cared for this girl as she shuffled through the juvenile justice system. RM believes in being not doing. Being present with an individual allows her to experience God’s love so that He can bring healing.

            Take time to read The Post’s article to learn more about the suffering of survivors, the complexity of the legal and social service system, as well as the intensity of the recovery process. Then consider joining our efforts through prayer. Prayer not only fuels our ministry but also creates transformation in our girls. Faithfulness in prayer brings a harvest.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Cultural Conceptions of Sexuality: Helpful or Harmful?

February brought on discussions about love, relationships, and sexual behavior with the release of “Fifty Shades of Grey”. Some people affirm the movie as an example of female empowerment. Others dismiss it as merely romantic fantasy. Still some people find the message it contains disturbing and harmful to society as a whole and survivors of sexual trauma in particular. The movie brings into question the basis of mutual, satisfying relationships. Are they rooted in sexual gratification or genuine intimacy of mind and heart? Do they ascribe worth to partners through their function and performance or honor the fundamental dignity of a person? Survivors of sexual trauma often endure damage to their identity since sexual exploitation gets presented as love. This distortion breaks down survivors’ identity and ability to foster healthy relationships. Sallie Culbreth, Founder and Director of Committed to Freedom, expands upon this theme to address concerns about how “Fifty Shades of Grey” presents a false reality and harms survivors. Shades of Concern

There are many commentaries about the book, "Fifty Shades of Grey" by E. L. James, and its recently released movie. We feel compelled to add to those commentaries with attention to how the book and movie themes impact survivors of abuse, exploitation, and sexual trauma.

We preface our comments by first addressing the issues of sexual behavior - that which is considered normal and out-of-the norm. As the song goes, "No one knows what goes on behind closed doors." Sex drives, preferences, positions, frequency, foreplay (or lack of it), and needs are all factors in how people have sex. The fact is, sexual behavior between consenting partners is just that - it's between them.

Sexual chaos and dysfunction are common issues among survivors. This is particularly true when your sexual point of reference involves manipulation and exploitation. For many of us, our first sexual teachers were our abusers and rapists. This creates challenging layers in the quest to become healthy, balanced, and functional.

Enter our concerns:

Our first concern is with how survivors see and experience themselves. For most of us - especially in the early stages of recovery - we view ourselves as disposable, worthless, or only having value in how we perform. Often, shame and false guilt accompany those feelings of worthlessness. At the same time, it is very common for survivors to be very experienced, sexually, and may look at their sexual histories with the mind-set that nothing really matters because they've already done so much.

With these factors in mind, survivors may subject themselves or others to degrading, dehumanizing, and sadistic sexual practices as a way to confirm their sense of worthlessness. We should note that demeaning sexual practices also take place in the most conservative religious relationships and the most liberal atheist ones too, so this comment is not exclusive to BDSM (bondage/discipline, dominance/submission, and sadism/masochism), although that is the primary focus of our concern for this article.

Our second concern is imitation by sexual predators who, unlike the characters in the book, do not seek consent (although the capacity to consent to an unknown experience is questionable from our perspective) before subjecting their target to BDSM. With the spotlight recently shown on high profile cases such as Campus Sexual Assault, Military Sexual Trauma, and child predators like Penn State's Jerry Sandusky, it is very clear that predators have no regard for their victims. Sexual predators are ruthless and we are fearful that the mainstream acceptance of these themes may darken the already dark souls of predators through imitation.

There is a vast difference between being sexually adventurous - of exploring sexuality in all its wild variations with a consenting partner - and pursuing or being pursued by sexual experiences that continue to chip away at survivors' already shattered sense of sexual self and self-worth.

Sex is a fabulous gift and part of recovery is learning to embrace that reality. So enjoy your body. Enjoy your partner's body. Experiment. Have fun. Be adventurous. Be connected. But the concern and caution we issue is this: make certain that all of your sexual experiences are consensual, that you fully understand or communicate what that "consent" actually means, and your sexual expressions and encounters serve to keep you moving toward a deeper sense of well-being, dignity, and health.

As those who work to offer survivors a path to empowerment and well-being, our concerns reach beyond the morality of these themes. Our concerns are that people who have been sexually broken, exploited, and betrayed not participate or be forced into experiences that reinforce the sense of being worthless, disposable, and dehumanized.

Through the years, we have listened to distressed survivors who acknowledged that the only time they feel sexually alive is when they are being sexually degraded. The dark side to that "alive" experience is how it reinforces the lies of worthlessness and indignity that people in recovery are working so hard to overcome.

Our "fifty shades of concern" come from decades of work with survivors. We, and those we work with, have been the targets of sexual monsters who were not compelled to view us as human beings worthy of respect. We were simple used as body parts for the predators' gratification, with no regard given to our humanity. This is one very substantial reason that recovery is so challenging and sexual well-being is so elusive.

We have concerns.

Written by Sallie Culbreth and Anne Quinn
©2015 Committed to Freedom

This article was reprinted with the permission of Ms. Culbreth. To read more articles or to learn about her organization, please visit

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

This is Love

“The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.”
Psalm 103:8


           As Valentine’s Day approaches, many of us consider our worth in comparison to the relationships in our lives. For the ones characterized by loving-kindness, this idea validates us. Yet for the ones characterized by abuse, love becomes a confusing concept. Still others of us may be disconnected from mutually satisfying relationships where we can give and receive love in a healthy manner. This reality steals our joy since we were made for community. When so much of our focus rests on deriving our value from how others perceive us, we can become disheartened.

            Yet there is One who sees us clearly and loves us deeply. His love redefines our lives and fills them with joy.

            The Bible describes God as love. Who God is as a person defines our understanding of love. Psalm 103: 8 says that God is “merciful” and “gracious”. He offers compassion and kindness, providing light in our desperate circumstances. He uses His power to forgive us and bring us into a relationship with Himself as a reflection of His love. The closeness we have with God builds up our spirit instead of crushing our heart. God’s love abounds in our lives; it is present in great supply. He faithfully lavishes love on us by treating us with great affection as a reflection of our value and an expression of His delight in us. His love refines us so that we know our worth and radiate His love to others.

            May we receive His unending love for us today.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Portait of a Survivor

           One of the first questions people ask about domestic sex trafficking involves how individuals become victims and if victims share common qualities that make them at-risk for exploitation. Although trafficking occurs in diverse communities throughout the United States, many victims share a background of brokenness and vulnerability.

           The average age of entry into domestic sex trafficking is 12 – 14 years old. Often these young children do not know their fathers, live in a chaotic environment, and have already been a victim of sexual abuse. They lack safety and protection, making them easy targets for traffickers. Pimps form relationships with victims by offering them attention, affection, and even material possessions. This fosters an emotional connection within the victim, which further ties them to their traffickers. This emotional exploitation causes significant harm as victims gain a distorted view of love and lack an identity outside of a relationship with their pimp.

           Trafficking survivors experience holistic harm from victimization. They may be exposed to violence, disease, manipulation, and threats. Long term stress and repeated trauma influence well-being. Survivors may possess a mental health diagnosis of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, any mood, anxiety or psychotic disorder, depression, personality disorder, and/or substance use. These disorders signify deeper soul issues that need healing as well as affirmation of strengths. Counseling offers a safe place and trusting relationship to process brokenness and equip survivors for restoration.

           After encountering such a desperate portrait of a survivor, many people want to know how they can help. Restoration Ministries believes that the effectiveness of our work comes through prayer. By prayer we break down strongholds in the lives of clients and claim healing for their hearts. As you make time to pray, please ask for God’s continued favor on Restoration Ministries and our relationship with the DC social service systems. Pray that we will build genuine relationships with the girls, conveying God’s love for them through our presence. Pray that God would deliver them from darkness and put a hedge of protection around their lives. Pray that our girls would place their faith and trust in Jesus. Thank-you for joining with us to serve survivors through prayer!

(Restoration Ministries’ panel event on caring for survivors of domestic sex trafficking)

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Good News of Great Joy

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor, he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound.
Isaiah 61:1 (English Standard Version)

            These words about Jesus ring out during the Advent season. God has drawn near to us through the birth of His son. We are not alone, forsaken or forgotten. God loves us and brings us into relationship with Himself through Jesus. This good news is not solely for the important or powerful but rather for the poor, brokenhearted, and enslaved around us. Restoration Ministries (RM) works with many youth that fit this description. They have been abused, outcast, and are fearful of a future without hope. God not only provides all of us with hope but also offers joy through His presence.
            At RM, we believe that our work is a ministry of presence. We faithfully reflect God’s love and fellowship to needy hearts by meeting with at-risk youth on a weekly basis. This work builds trust and fosters opportunity to point youth toward a relationship with God. The Christmas season allows us to directly express the good news of Jesus by blessing our girls with gifts of affirmation and encouragement.

            This year our Ambassadors joined together to create handmade cards with verses and notes. Due to the abundance of effort, each gift bag contained 10 cards. The girls had multiple messages conveying their value and God’s lavish love for them. Additionally, the Ambassadors donated gift cards to bless the girls with a special present during the holiday season. The gifts serve as a reminder that each girl is important to us and precious to God. We are thankful to all the Ambassadors for expanding the impact of our work through their generosity. We are grateful to God for His continued to blessing over this ministry.


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A Prayer for Healing

            The holiday season brings a different tone around the youth detention center. Many of the teens are looking forward to spending time with their family, receiving gifts and transitioning out of the system; however, this is also a season where hurtful emotions are triggered and memories of loss are relived. I have found that many of the youth are still dealing with their painful past and striving to overcome it.  

            The topic at last week's group meeting was sexual assault. Four youth members and one case manager attended it. The youth were eager to tell their stories and each one was able to relate to the other. I opened the conversation by having them describe their general views regarding sexual assault and sexual molestation. All of them agreed that there was no difference between the two because both actions had the same results. They stressed the fact that the victim is left traumatized and ‘messed up’. They also remarked that both assault and molestation are unwanted and forced encounters, making them similarly offensive. In unison, the youth agreed that the individual who suffers from assault or molestation is traumatized.  

            Each one of them had a sexual assault or sexual molestation experience. Most, if not all, of them experienced being assaulted or molested between the ages of 5 - 18 years old. Unfortunately, the assaults were at the hands of someone they trusted and/or a family member. Most, if not all, of the assaults were a set up by the perpetrator. As I listened to them disclose their stories, they shared a common coping mechanism. That mechanism is forgiveness and it has helped with their survival. The idea behind forgiveness was to let go of the experience and not let their perpetrators have control of their lives or minds. This was a process that took time but eventually each youth has adapted and worked to overcome their trauma as best as possible. 

            It was overwhelming to witness their eagerness and resiliency to survive these events; however, my hope is that they take advantage of individual therapy to fully heal from trauma and rebuild an identity that affirms their value. The healing process will be a long one; it could take years. Through weekly group meetings and tough discussions, the youth discover how past trauma influences their present life and sometimes they re-live their traumatic experiences. Individual therapy will help them contain the emotions from these damaging situations so that they can experience peace. This season points me back to Christ whose great love for each of us brings healing and restoration to broken lives. My prayer is that every youth at the detention center comes to know God’s love as we continue to minister His presence.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Expanding Outreach to DC's At-Risk Youth

Restoration Ministries (RM) has been given the opportunity to serve high-risk youth, ages 15-21, committed at a recreation center in NW, DC! In DC, 18 year olds are not automatically emancipated from the system since committed youth exhibit a habit of getting into trouble. Committing these young people in the system, whether that system is foster care, juvenile detention or both, provides a way to wrap extra services around them to help ensure success as a young adult.
The recreation center consists of approximately 175 teens. Most are male, some are female, and a few identify as transgender. Many of the youth do not have nurturing relationships in their lives. Most have no clue about the identity of their biological father or their father has been locked up and they have no relationship with him. These youth experience mental health issues, drug addictions, and struggle to understand the need for an education.
At the center, our clinical therapist spends a considerable amount of time meeting the youth in their circumstances; playing pool, ping pong, and just chatting in the lounge. These times provide precious and necessary interactions, building a strong foundation so that the youth will be able to trust the therapist. This enables us to effectively screen for sexual abuse, exploitation, and human trafficking. We also offer a weekly psychotherapy group on various topics that appeal to the youth. So far the youth express interest in discussing and receiving help for their anger.
Recently a mother came to one of the meetings and imparted wisdom to the group regarding her mistakes in dealing with anger. The youth received her honesty, allowing them to discuss positive coping skills. A young male shared about his issues with the group home and his desire to be reunited with his family. He said that he is trying stay under the radar (not get into any trouble) so that he can get discharged. Another youth discussed how the loss of a family member has been hard for her to deal with yet she desires to be a role model for her younger sister. These meetings help the youth gain awareness about how their decisions influence their future, including their chances of being discharged from the group home. 
We count it a privilege and honor to sow into the lives of these youth. We ask for your prayers for continued favor with the youth, their families, and the city. We also ask for wisdom and discernment as we bring the light of Christ to the dark places.    

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Ripple Effect of Abuse

Advocates for survivors of sexual assault carry an urgent message to the public. This message explains the ripple effect abuse has on victims, family members, and communities. Sallie Culbreth, Founder and Director of Committed to Freedom, wrote a recent article about victim blaming. She wisely places responsibility for victimization and its consequences with perpetrators and indifferent bystanders. Her insights will help readers become more aware of the impact of abuse.

Feeling the Impact's Ripple
I'm a seasoned traveler - meaning that while some families need a mud room, we need a suitcase room because I'm either packing or unpacking. This week, I was scheduled for a flight that coincided on a day that was extremely stormy throughout most of the country. Consequently, flights were cancelled or delayed in a domino-fall kind of way until it impacted me. All my flights were so delayed that I never made it on a plane. Not only that, but I didn't make it to my destination, which meant that the group that brought me in had to scramble to come up with a Plan-B because it was doubtful I would make my first presentation.

Abuse impacts the victim in devastating ways, but that impact can ripple out with the potential of taking out many more people and opportunities than the abuse recipient. We saw this a few years ago with the exposure of Jerry Sandusky's predatory sexual abuse of children facilitated by his affluence in the Penn State football program. As the facts unfolded, it was revealed that the actions of this man were known, covered up, and allowed to continue for years by an entire institution of the university's and community's leaders. The NCAA sent a clear and appropriate message with stiff sanctions, drawing a line in the sand that declared this kind of intentional blindness, callous indifference for the victims, and breathtaking cowardice will not be tolerated. The result: the actions of this one predator destroyed the lives of his victims, his family, his charity, and his university's football program. Who was to blame for this ripple? Jerry Sandusky and the cowards who looked the other way.

In another recent story, a high school football program in New Jersey was suspended because of a hazing incident that boiled down to sexual assault of younger, new players by other students. What was stunning to me was the uproar that took place when the season was cancelled by the school superintendent. Who was to blame for this cancelled season? Those who committed these atrocities.

In my home state, we have had a series of high profile sexual assault cases that have been treated in a cavalier and irresponsible manner, in my opinion, including the bonding out of a man accused of serial rape and kidnapping in my own community. His victims were terrified and his freedom meant that our community was filled with anxiety and fear until he was again arrested on additional charges. Another case involved a 31 year old woman sexually assaulting a 13 year old boy and two young teen girls. What is stunning about this is the victim blaming that has taken place on public forums.

Abuse and sexual assault needs to be taken seriously, understood accurately, and not tolerated under any circumstances with very firm and clear cultural, political, religious, and social sanctions. There is most definitely a ripple effect when predators act that can often take down many others besides the actual victims. People may raise a ruckus about football programs or churches or clubs or schools that suffer the consequences, but the blame rests squarely on the predators and those who facilitate their predatory behavior.

Amplify the outrage of a lost football season with the shame, humiliation, and suffering of the victims. THEN look me in the eye and tell me it's not fair. And here's the bottom line: it is not fair that a predator has stolen so much, hurt so many, and violated the vulnerable. Organizations and communities will either take these situations seriously or there will be sanctions that have a ripple effect which stings enough to change the attitudes and actions of those who would otherwise choose to look the other way.

© 2014
Written by Sallie Culbreth, M.S. - Founder

This article was reprinted with the permission of Ms. Culbreth. To read more articles or to learn about her organization, please visit

Friday, October 3, 2014

Volunteer Interviews

Restoration Ministries (RM) operates with the help of faithful volunteers. Each person possesses conviction to see the end of domestic sex trafficking and to offer God’s love to survivors. We offer their stories so you can understand the passion behind this work and get glimpse of God’s faithfulness in this ministry.

Name: Cindy Cha

How did you become aware of domestic sex trafficking (DST)?
I became aware of domestic sex trafficking when I was approached to lead my small group on a local mission trip program (called “Intencity” started by my church). My friend who was on a staff at church’s mission department had just learned of this org in DC called Restoration Ministries. She told me about what the ministry does and asked if I would consider partnering with this ministry for this trip.  This was also the very first time I ever heard of human trafficking existing right here at home. Our group went through a very intense all-day training and all of us took an entire day to digest the shocking information we received. Until then, we never knew that these girls were being raped and sold as commodities so young in age and this was actually happening right here in the US.

What would you like people to know about DST?
That it is a very deep, complex issue that is so intertwined with other social, economic issues within the society. Making the difference is not about running around hotels and streets for a few weeks looking to rescue victims, but about committed individuals who are willing to work alongside survivors to support and empower them wherever they’re at in the process.
 Prayer, preparation (education) and commitment are essential for being an effective advocate.

How long and in what capacity have you supported RM?
I have been with RM for over 7 years now and I started as the first batch of volunteers when Candace started the volunteer mentoring program back in 2007.  For few years, I volunteered to work with the girls at the youth jail and psych hospitals.  Currently, I oversee the Ambassadors of Restoration Program.

Please share a verse that encourages your work as an advocate.
My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
2 Corinthians 12:9

Tell a brief story that illustrates the influence of RM in the lives of their clients.
            I will never forget the very first time that I met her at the youth jail.  She was only sweet 16.  She described herself as worthless, unlovable, and deserving of her pain.  She asked for a prayer. As we laid our hands on her in prayer, her body shook so hard with pain as she cried.  She had been prostituting herself since she was 14, under the control of her pimp. Her family rejected her. Her only brother was close death from a drive-by shooting. Her dad was in jail and she never really knew him.
            God allowed our paths to meet through Restoration Ministries’ program. This young girl is smart and creative. Once she wrote a rap expressing her life and performed it on a volunteer appreciation day. She gave me warm, tight hugs every time I saw her. She stayed connected with RM and earned a GED and was accepted into a college with a full scholarship. But after only few weeks into her freshmen year, before I was supposed to start as her mentor, she has gone back to her pimp, and has not been heard from again.          
            She was the first of many girls I met through RM that followed with similar, horrifying stories.  I’m so grateful that even though I have no idea where she is now, to this day I can still lift her up in my prayers and place my hope in that she is in God’s hands. Because of Restoration Ministries, such paths are still being crossed where these girls have chance to share their stories and we can commit to praying for them. It is the only faith-based organization in DC that offers commitment and building relationship with these girls to journey together with them, with love and compassion, to find the injustices and speak up on their behalf.  I truly believe what we can do for these girls is very limited in our own human abilities… but we can always place our hope in Christ who will do His mighty work through us.

Name: Evan Orie
Age: 25
Occupation: Software Developer
Tell us something about yourself: For the most part, I could be characterized as your stereotypical geek. I like to play video games and really enjoy the fantasy genre, be it movies, books, or board games (e.g. Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Magic: The Gathering). I am a cradle Catholic from a biracial family (my mother is white, my father is black), which has given me a pretty unique perspective on life in general. My spiritual life started to bud during my early years in High School when my beliefs were first challenged. Since then, I have steadily grown closer to the Lord, though my faith has definitely had its peaks and valleys.

How did you become aware of domestic sex trafficking (DST)?
The topic of sex trafficking was, more or less, a tangential thought that came into my head during my college years when I was struggling with the concept of Christian sexuality. During that time, pornography was a huge weight on my shoulders that I had kept secret from everyone I knew. However, when God finally helped me climb out of that hole, He put a fire in my soul to be vocal about my experience so that other men like me could hear my story and know that they aren’t alone. This passion got me asking the question “Why is pornography so pervasive? What gets these women into this industry?” From there, I had many conversations with various women about the importance of self-worth and beauty in their lives. I learned that many women who go into pornography or get caught up in DST are people who have broken families and never had their thirst for true, unconditional love satisfied.

What motivates you to advocate for victims and survivors?
I view DST as a social justice issue. Society has shown time and time again that it has no empathy for these women and men. For some reason, it doesn’t matter why or how these people became victims; the simple fact that they have been sex trafficked makes them “tainted”. This is absolutely ridiculous and heartless. All people are God’s children and deserve to be treated with respect and love. I advocate for victims and survivors because others often shutdown their voices.

Share your vision for creating awareness about this issue.
In my own life, I have seen that the best way to spread awareness is through personal relationships. While reading facts and statistics can be helpful, they often do not lead a person to real empathy without a personal connection. During my time with Restoration Ministries, I have learned that nearly everyone has a personal story of their struggles with sexuality but we have all been conditioned to keep our struggles secret (caveat: I recognize that sex is a private thing but there are circumstances when we really do need to talk about it with others.) If we can break this system of secrecy, then I think our hearts will be more willing to feel true empathy.

How long and in what capacity have you supported RM?
I started getting involved with Restoration Ministries during the Summer of 2013. Since then, I have filled two roles: I was a group leader of one of the Ambassadors of Restoration. My group in D.C. was quite a diverse group. Our age range spanned from Twenty-Somethings to Retired, included women and men, white and black, and even various nationalities. This coming Fall, I will be leading another group, which I very much look forward to hosting.I have also worked as the Website Administrator for RM. I make updates to the site, set up online fundraisers, and generally help out with anything computer related.

Please share a verse that encourages your work as an advocate.
Matthew 25:31-46

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”