We hear an update from the Greenville non-profit Restore One as they break ground this Fall on the first shelter in the country for male victims of human trafficking.
WARNING: this story contains descriptions that some listeners may find upsetting.
Human trafficking, whether labor or sex trafficking, is defined as holding a person in involuntary servitude by force, coercion or debt bondage. And although an alarming number of cases have been reported around the world, in the United States and right here in eastern North Carolina, it’s difficult to accurately count the number of victims because the illicit activity is done covertly. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, between 2008 to 2010, Federal anti-trafficking task forces opened more than 2,500 suspected cases of human trafficking. Of those, 82%, were classified as sex trafficking. The fact is women and young girls are more likely to be coerced into the sex trade, but boys can be victims too.
“They have been sold for sex every single night of the week, as many times maybe up to thirty.”
Anna Smith is the Executive Director and Co-Founder of Restore One.
“these boys have been performing sexual acts, whether if it’s intercourse, it could be pornography, it could be stripping, they’ve been beaten, starved, afraid for their lives.”
According to Anna, an estimated 300,000 youth are brought into the sex trade every year in America, half of those kids are boys.
“These boys will last no longer than six years is the estimate once they are initially recruited by a pimp into the sex trade. These boys have traveled all across the United States, listed online for sex. What they’ve endured is high levels of trauma while in the sex trade, but also a majority of boys will have past history of sexual abuse even before being recruited by a pimp into the sex trade.”
Restore One, a Greenville based non-profit, is dedicated to providing restorative care to adolescent male who are victims of sex trafficking. The organization will soon open the first shelter in the nation for males ages 12 to 18.
“Often, we don’t think that it happens to them, we don’t hear about it in the news, but there’s not a lot of services for men and boys. And so with that said, there’s a grave need for that type of care not just within our state having a lot of human trafficking, but also nationwide.”
Restore One has assisted in local and national cases of male human trafficking. Anna says until now, there has been no safe homes specifically for male victims of domestic minor sex trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation in the United States. After about a year of searching, persistence paid off and Restore One is breaking ground this Fall on their 8,500 square foot facility called Anchor House. President and Co-Founder Chris Smith says the journey so far hasn’t been a smooth one.
“we found land that was donated by someone, but when the lawyers sat down to deed the land over, it just did not work out so we lost that land. Then we signed on another piece of land that was 10 acres. It ended up not being able to work out because it couldn’t hold septic tanks. So that didn’t work out either. Last week, we finally have now signed on land that is 10 acres. We will build the Anchor House on that piece of land.”
The facility will be located somewhere in eastern North Carolina, but Chris says the exact location will remain undisclosed.
“The boys that will be staying in our home will actually be testifying against their perpetrators or their pimps, so for that reason, we won’t be able to release the home at all. It’s kind of like a domestic violence shelter also, so we won’t be releasing the location of the home just for the safety of the boys.”
Anchor House will be constructed in three phases. Phase one and includes a cottage that will accommodate four boys and adult caregivers, and a community building with a basketball gym, cafeteria, and a classroom.
“The boys will be homeschooled on site there. It has a nursing station, it has a library, and a counseling room. It also has a living room. Then upstairs, it has enough room for three interns to live with a small living space.”
Phase two will mean a second cottage and phase three will include an additional cottages. The total cost of the project is approximately $1 million dollars. When Anchor House is fully finished, it will accommodate 12 boys. Restore One’s executive director Anna Smith admits it’s just a drop in the bucket as far as the amount of boys needing this type of care.
“We will take in boys from all across the nation and we’ll begin the process of bringing them back their life that they had lost after they were trafficked. We never know what type of investment that will be. Not in their life, but also the people they will affect along the way.”
In order to meet the psychological, physical and sociological needs of the adolescent male victims, Restore One’s advisory board and executive directors will carefully select the boys who will receive care at Anchor House after a detailed application is completed and a psychological evaluation is conducted. If Anchor House proves successful, Anna says they plan to share this model with other organizations that also want to impact male trafficking victims.
Restore One is hosting their second annual “Stand For One” Gala next weekend. The event will include dinner, live music, guest speakers and a silent auction to raise funds for Anchor House.
“It’s at Rock Springs Center in Greenville, North Carolina on September 26th at 7pm. We’re really excited to say that we’re fully funded to build the Anchor House debt free. So what the funds will be going towards from the Gala that are raised is once we’re open, you know what does it cost to keep a program like this open.”
Anchor House is set to break ground in November. It could take six to eight months for phase one to be complete. For more information on Restore One and the “Stand For One” Gala, visit publicradioeast.org.