Sex Trafficking

Katie Rhoades is the founder and executive director of Healing Action. At 18, Rhoades began working in the sex industry, and experienced episodes of trafficking and abuse until she left age 21.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

When Katie Rhoades founded Healing Action, she made a commitment: every peer counselor she hires has worked in the commercial sex trade, and gotten out. Including herself.

“They have walked that path," Rhoades said. "They have, through help, and sometimes not so much help, have been able to come out and do something different with their lives. And that creates a sense of hope and possibility for the women that we serve.”

Healing Action is the latest addition to a regional effort to stop sex trafficking and exploitation in St. Louis.

human trafficking
FBI website

Senate Bill 804 would make it illegal to advertise the availability of a child for sex. It would also make it illegal to advertise the availability of an adult for sex without her or his consent, a provision that was not included in a similar bill last year.

Katie Rhoades (left), a sex trafficking survivor who leads group sessions at Magdalene House, and Tricia Roland-Hamilton (right), Magdalene St. Louis' executive director.
Áine O'Connor | St. Louis Public Radio

On May 30, the Magdalene St. Louis held its opening ceremony in the city’s Old North neighborhood. The ceremony took place just one day after President Obama signed The Justice for Victims of Human Trafficking Act of 2015 (JVTA). The newly renovated home serves as a residential program for women who have been victims of sex trafficking.

St. Louis Regional Chamber | File photo

For the first time in 13 years, Congress has passed new regulations on human sex trafficking. On May 29, The Justice for Victims of Human Trafficking Act of 2015 (JVTA) was signed by President Obama.

The bill is comprised of a number of specifications, which include:

Magdalene St. Louis director Tricia Roland-Hamilton and sex traffic survivor Shelia McCain cut the ribbon for the opening of the Magdalene House in St. Louis' Old North neighborhood Saturday, May 30, 2015.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

A four-year-long project to open a residential program in St. Louis for women who have been victims of sex trafficking has come to fruition. Magdalene St. Louis held opening ceremonies for the newly renovated home in the city’s Old North neighborhood Saturday.

The first seven women accepted into the two-year program move in on June 8. The house has the space for eleven, and according to Magdalene St. Louis Executive Director Tricia Roland-Hamilton, the program already has 25 women on a waiting list.

human trafficking
FBI website

UPDATED 2:30 p.m. April 23 with Lynch confirmation - Even if it becomes law, the human trafficking bill the Senate approved Wednesday may be remembered most as a historical footnote in a fight that involves abortion issues and Loretta Lynch's nomination. Lynch, who would be the first African American woman attorney general, has faced the longest confirmation delay since the 1980s. The Senate is finally scheduled to vote on her nomination Thursday. She was confirmed 56 to 43, with 10 Republicans voting for her.

Jason Rosenbaum, St. Louis Public Radio

There was a time when Katie Rhoades was sold for sex out of nightclubs, strip clubs, magazines and online websites. She was part of an estimated $45 million industry of what she called “selling human beings online.” 

“It’s a lot of money, said Rhoades, the founder of the Healing Action Network. “It’s a lot of economic incentive to keep this industry going.”

Rhoades said it’s crucial that third-party facilitators of prostitution are held accountable. That’s why she’s supportive of Rep. Ann Wagner’s legislation taking aim at publications advertising human trafficking.

Via Flickr / humanrightsfilmfestival

Sex trafficking is not just an international problem, or even a national one. It is also a problem here in St. Louis. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, St. Louis is a hot spot of sex trafficking activity, one of the top 20 in the country.

photo of Molly Hackett
Provided by Nix Conference and Meeting Management

Jan. 11 is Human Trafficking Awareness Day, and January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.

You may assume that human trafficking has nothing to do with you, and that there’s nothing you can do about it. If so, you would be wrong.

The average age of a child recruited into sex trafficking is just 12. When we tell that to people who know little about human trafficking, particularly child sex trafficking, we see them literally take a step back.

Catharine MacKinnon speaking in 2006
Wikipedia

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon. - Despite a view by some that prostitution is simply “sex work” that should be legalized and controlled, attorney Catharine MacKinnon dismisses that approach as misguided and harmful to women who in most cases have no choice.

(via Flickr / Daniel P Davis)

Magdalene is a residential program which provides services to women who are involved in prostitution, trafficking and addiction.

The program was founded in 1997 by Becca Stevens, an Episcopal priest at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.