Fighting Child Sex Trafficking Here and Abroad

Fighting Child Sex Trafficking Here and Abroad

Love 146 is a New Haven, Connecticut-based, international human rights organization working to end child trafficking and exploitation through survivor care and prevention. Why New Haven? Three of the four founders have connections to the City and all have an appreciation for its rich abolitionist history. Photo credit: Marilyn Murray courtesy of Love146.

Young girls clad in red dresses, accessorized with numbers for identification sat as prey among predators. As the girls watched cartoons, the predators watched them, shrewdly choosing their next victim. But, one girl in particular stood out – her number read 146. 

“Her name became a number, her number became our name” reads the website of Love146, an international human rights organization working to end child trafficking and exploitation through survivor care and prevention. Co-founders Lamont Hiebert, Caroline Hahm, Rob Morris and Desirea Rodgers’ encounter with number 146 that night in Southeast Asia inspired them to set out not only to aid survivors of trafficking and exploitation, but to prevent it. 

The girl identified only by her number, looked beyond the glass barrier in defiance and caught the attention of those that that meant her no harm but salvation. They were there as part of an exploratory trip to determine how they could serve in the fight against child sex trafficking. That night, they got their answer.

The founders were never able to identify number 146, but her story has inspired them to help thousands. They set-up shop in New Haven, CT, where three out of four of the founders were linked to the city and all of the founders loved its rich abolitionist history. Love146 has expanded to have offices in Houston, TX, the United Kingdom and the Philippines taking a holistic approach to caring for survivors internationally.

“We live in a world where children are used and sold like commodities,” says President and Co-Founder Rob Morris. “The stories we hear of children who have been severely abused through being trafficked or sexually exploited are nothing short of horrific. When you look into the eyes of a young girl in a brothel in Thailand with ‘customers’ all around, it shakes you to the core. I have held in my arms two children in our care in the Philippines, a 1-year-old and a 2-year-old, victims of child pornographers, and it shreds me. When our social workers right here in Connecticut tell stories about how girls and boys have been forced or coerced into having sex multiple times a night, we can’t just stand by and do nothing.”

Since the US Survivor Care Program in Connecticut began in January of 2014, Love146 has provided 13 youth with long-term services; over the past two years, with a capacity of five to six long-term cases at a time. With the expansion, they now will be able to serve 50 youth at a time with long term services. Additionally, they did 77 rapid responses last year. In the next year, they expect more than double.

The organization journeys with them as they navigate through the recovery process, and then withdraws gradually as survivors’ progress. From therapy to safety planning, ultimately the goal is for survivors to be able to reintegrate into a healthy local community.

However, even as a survivor gains independence, Love146 will always be there when needed; for a case is never closed. They partner with families of survivors and other caregivers; training them on how to address the level of trauma that has been encountered by survivors of child sex trafficking and exploitation; long-term care as for now is only provided here in Connecticut, the Philippines and the UK. Love146 has also created the Rapid Response program, a one-time information and safety planning meetings with youth, in Connecticut and Houston TX, which allows their team to respond urgently to youth who have been identified as trafficked, exploited, or at high risk. The Rapid Response program allows their team to provide solutions to potentially unsafe situations. 

Another major component of Love146 is prevention education. The organization wants to prevent sex trafficking and exploitation before it happens through education. From classrooms and community settings, Love146 has been able to impart their Not a #Number program, an interactive five-module human trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation prevention curriculum set to teach youth to recognize recruitment tactics, understand vulnerabilities, and develop skills to safely navigate potential and existing exploitative situations. 

In addition to donations from individuals, Love146 has received support from The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven through giveGreater.org®.

To learn more about Love146 and to help fund its programs, visit its profile on giveGreater.org®.

Did You Know?

In 2012, the International Labor Organization estimated that 20.9 Million people are enslaved; 4.5 Million are sexually exploited.
A typical value placed on an enslaved child is about $72.

Source: Love146 website

This story is part of the Inspiration Monday story series produced by The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven. 

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