While I am not a fan injecting religion into solving human rights issues, I do welcome support for victims of sexual violence when it seems genuine. In this case, it appears completely genuine. A Christian couple decided to open a home for boys used for sex trafficking:
Chris and Anna Smith, who are poised to open the first safe house in the United States for sex trafficked boys, didn’t set out to be trailblazers. They founded their Christian ministry, Restore One, in 2012, hoping to open a facility for girls in Greenville, N.C.
Anna, a sex trafficking survivor, worked as an intern at a similar facility, Hope House, in Asheville, N.C. When Hope House founder Emily Fitchpatrick learned the Smiths wanted to open a home, she asked them to consider taking in boys.
“That wasn’t something we wanted to pioneer,” Anna Smith told me.
Then the Smiths heard Tina Frudt, human trafficking survivor and founder of Courtney’s House, describe the plight of boys who came to her program.
“There are no places that boys can go,” Frudt told The Daily Reflector.
According to one study, as many as 50 percent of sexually exploited minors are males and yet there are few resources for them, including residential treatment facilities.
“That’s when we said yes to boys,” Anna said.
The Anchor House, the name the Smiths chose for the home, faced immediate problems. The first was that they could not find a suitable location for the home. It took them a year to find a location large enough for their needs. They eventually found a spot in Greenville, North Carolina. That led to the second problem:
The Smiths didn’t tell the county commissioner’s office of their plans, and they registered their property under a different name. The Smiths didn’t inform the neighbors either. Anna said the home operates like a domestic violence shelter, where privacy and confidentiality are important.
“There was no need for us to inform the community about the home. The boys will actually be testifying against their perpetrators, and we don’t want their location known,” she said. “We want to be a ‘you don’t see us organization’ … providing safety for boys who experienced trauma and harm.”
That ended when local media discovered the Smiths’s efforts and reported on it. The town’s response was less than supportive. Many were angry that they were not told. Others were concerned about their property values dropping. Then there was this:
“Will they pay property taxes? What happens when donations dry up? Will Greene County pick up the cost?” The Daily Reflector reported. “Will we need extra deputies to babysit these males? If they won’t take their medicine, will a deputy have to be called to make them?”
Anna tried to assure residents.
“These are victims, not criminals,” she said.
At the county line, someone erected a banner that read, “No sex trafficking lodge here.” Other signs posted by opponents littered main roads.
“Ten to 15 neighbors cause a really loud riot,” Anna said. “But we were naive to think everyone would welcome a boys’ safe home.”
That experience speaks volumes about the hurdles advocates for male victims face. The town’s reaction was one of pure selfishness. They did not care at all about the boys. Instead, they thought the worst of them, regarding them as criminals, and wanting to turn them away. While many people do not react with such animosity, plenty of people do.
I have experienced this first-hand living in a home full of at-risk foster kids. When some of our neighbors found out, they complained about the potential noise and safety risks. This is despite not one instance of any of the kids hurting someone in the neighborhood or destroying anyone’s property.
We have had the police at our home on a few occasions, although never for violence against another person. (I must admit I am responsible for one of those appearances. My voice apparently carries more than I assumed.) Yet this is hardly a reason to send these kids away. It is even less a reason to send away children like those the Smiths wan to help, children who have people actively trying to find and kill them. It looks more embarrassing considering the hassle the boys must endure to get into the home:
In response, the Smiths organized a series of informational meetings for the community, detailing their plans. The boys—four at first and eventually as many as 12—will be referred by law enforcement and advocacy groups from around the country. They will have to pass drug screens and personality evaluations. Because of confidentiality concerns, none of the boys housed at Anchor House will be from the local community. A group of volunteers, night guards, and a $12,000 security system with cameras will monitor the facility.
Despite all this being for the boys’ safety, this sounds remarkably like a prison. This is what the boys will live through just to get help (one can only imagine what the boys who do not pass the evaluations must endure), and the town treats them as suspect.
Fortunately, the Smiths were able to build the facility due to private financing. They are currently looking for an additional $400,000 to cover maintenance and security costs.
Again, I do not generally support people making religion part of support services, however, these people appear to genuinely want to help sex trafficked boys. I will wait and see how this turns out. Readers can visit their site to find out more about their services.