Courtney’s House Survivors Services Coordinator Ta’Quilla Spaine discussed human trafficking in the United States Tuesday in McShain Lounge. The event, titled “Human Trafficking in Our Backyard,” was co-hosted by Students Stopping the Trafficking of People and Campus Renew.
Courtney’s House was founded in 2008 by Tina Frundt, a survivor of domestic sex trafficking, with the goals of searching for and supporting child victims of sex trafficking.
The organization focuses on raising awareness of the widespread sex trafficking industry, reaching out to suspected or potential victims to provide them with information, and eventually assessing and fulfilling the needs of each victim through holistic healing, which involves counseling and care.
According to the U.S. National Report, 286,506 children are at risk of sexual exploitation, 2.8 million children are currently living on the streets and 1 out of every 3 of those vulnerable children will be lured into prostitution within 48 hours of leaving home. Spaine, in her role as Survivors Services Coordinator, serves as a case manager, a mentor, a social worker, a court companion and a friend to survivors.
Spaine began by promising to be completely honest with the audience, even if that meant delving into disturbing topics. She shared stories of cases during her career, like a church-going grandmother who sold her own grandchildren into slavery, a father who sodomized his sons and drug addict parents who traded their children for a few dollars. Spaine emphasized that there is not just one definition of human trafficking.
“You could be trafficked from anywhere,” Spaine said. “Trafficking does not mean that I am taking you from D.C. and shipping you to Korea. Trafficking is simple: force, fraud, coercion —movement from one place to the next for something of monetary value.”
Courtney’s House is the only organization in the D.C. area that works with boys and transgender individuals who often face additional challenges because they are not considered victims, but rather labeled as participants in survival sex.
“[T]hey are not being treated as fairly as a female that’s being trafficked. And somehow the laws aren’t protecting the boys as much as they should, which is something we push for,” Spaine said.
Spaine also spoke about how American culture idolizes pimps, men who speak openly about selling girls. Disturbingly, these types of men appear in commercials, movies and music. The culmination of this glorification is in the annual Pimp Ball, also known as the Players Ball, which occurs every December in a different city.
“D.C. hosted it a couple years ago,” Spaine said. “All the pimps come to one city and have a big party. And they bring all their girls and turn them loose on the city. It’s a big party. Look it up on YouTube. They have videos, interviews, contests…it’s a multibillion dollar industry and where there is demand, there will always be supply.”
The goal of Courtney’s House is to address the needs of each individual victim, regardless of his or her current lifestyle. Spaine has traveled across the country to rescues her clients from traffickers and place them in safe residential treatment facilities.
“We meet them where they are,” said Spaine. “I have clients that have been out of the life for a long time…I have clients that are still in the life. For those that are in the life, we are working on an exit plan.”
Spaine ended the evening with a call to action, encouraging the audience to look at their local laws and advocate for change and to take action if they felt as though they were witnessing a victim of sex trafficking. She was adamant that simply paying attention is imperative to helping fight the battle against this injustice.
“We are on the ground — we are on the ground working every day to help someone’s child return home and stay home, to do something different with their life and overcome their trauma,” Spaine said.
After the talk, a number of audience members thanked Spaine for her service to the community and asked how to become more involved in her cause.
Wendy Hamilton, Village C West Chaplain-in-Residence, said she was incredibly moved by Spaine’s discussion.
“Tonight’s speaker really brought some additional light to me,” Hamilton said. “I want to go out there and start looking for some of these missing kids myself, but I understand I’m only one person. What I’m thinking about tonight is what can I do? I may not be able to save them all, but how can I contribute?”
Travis Richardson (COL ’15), Vice President of SSTOP, expressed a desire to heighten awareness on Georgetown’s campus of sex trafficking.
“A lot of Hoyas don’t realize that D.C. is the largest port of entry for slaves and trafficked people in the nation,” Richardson said. “I know we are on our Hilltop, but that doesn’t exclude us from looking out and being aware of what’s going on around us.”