American River Messenger Second Edition for January 2010
Congressman Dan Lungren, Jenny Williamson. Location is Placer County proposed site for Courage House Northern California, a home to house and heal girls who have been involved in the illicit sex trafficking industry of our area.
Sacramento – There is a long, winding lane that leads up to the house, the barn and the future for young girls rescued from the sex traffic slavery of Northern California.
Sex traffic slavery of Northern California?
That’s right. Sex traffic slavery right here in River City. Though most people think that is some exotic international problem in faraway Asian countries or down below the border, fact is, dozens of U.S.-born girls ranging in age from 11 to 17 are being recruited and exploited daily. Elk Grove. El Dorado Hills. Sacramento. Carmichael. Rancho Cordova. No place is immune.
The typical girl more than likely was sexually abused at home. Repulsed and confused, they run away. Pimps find them at shopping malls and through internet classified ads. They promise food, shelter, a little money and a life on their own. The job, though, involves giving away their bodies to sex customers dozens of times a day. Day after day.
It’s estimated that more than 400,000 children are being sexually exploited each year in the U.S.
The FBI and undercover Sacramento and Sacramento County police are among the agencies that catch up with them. They bust the pimps and put the girls in juvenile detention or send them home. Eventually, they get a chance to bolt and they do. The cycle starts anew and the hard miles of the illicit sex trade beget drug problems and all that begins to pile up on their bodies and spirits.
If only there was a place, a special place to put these girls
where counselors and therapists could work with them and bring them back to where they last lost sight of their dreams.
There is. Almost.
Jenny Williamson and her “Courage To Be You” nonprofit are working on it.
This Rocklin woman, a blonde whirl of enthusiasm and energy who also is a mom and a wife, took time out from her comfortable suburban world to have a personal epiphany a few years back. A life coach by profession, she had arrived at one of those personal stock- taking moments that tug between the light and darkness of the soul around a person’s 40th birthday.
This launched her on a journey of self discovery whereupon she met God in a new church and learned that HE had a plan for her life that SHE had been ignoring: The Courage to Be You.
That plan didn’t come all at once, but was eventually revealed: start a faith-based mission to serve the victims of human trafficking, the walking wounded juveniles caught up in sexual exploitation. Provide a home for these girls where they can heal in Northern California.
MEETING THE GOAL
Spin ahead now to a sunny day last month when Williamson has invited Congressman Dan Lungren (R-CA) and some staff members to tour the proposed site for Courage House Northern California.
This pastoral ranch setting in rural Placer County has been used to train and board horses. The views of the foothills, the wide open spaces and fresh air seem the perfect antidote for a young woman to mend from the horror of the sex traffic world.
While Lungren listens to Williamson’s plans to buy and eventually turn the house and outbuildings into facilities to house 20 to 30 girls, farm dogs frolic with horses in a pasture.
FBI Special Agent Minerva Shelton and an unidentified undercover Sacramento police officer describe how the girls are recruited, put to work and enslaved.
“These pimps know exactly what they’re looking for,” says the undercover cop. “They’re like the pied piper.”
Though area law enforcement has been adept at arresting the adult perpetrators and sending them off to jail, there’s no place beyond juvenile detention facilities to house the young female victims and to get them straightened out.
“There are 50 girls from Northern California who have been sent away to a facility in Arizona,” explains Williamson. “But there’s only a couple such places in the country. There’s another in Los Angeles. We need this one.”
The goal is in sight. Just this year Williamson and supporters – mostly a group of evangelical churches in the Sacramento region – have raised more than half of the $1 million needed to buy the acreage, house and barn presently on the site.
“They’ve accepted the offer of our purchase. But we need to raise the rest of the money,” says Williamson. Looking at what has happened to date since her epiphany, there seems little doubt in her mind that more donors are out there. But they have to hear and they, like Williamson, have to commit to the cause.
Williamson is so sure it will happen, she’s getting everything ready for a potential summer opening of Courage House Northern California. Platoons of volunteers are investing their own time and money ($250) to go through background checks and six-week-long certification training sessions with CASA (a nationally accredited program for Court Appointed Special Advocates). “The Courage to be You” Works to End HumanTrafficking Congressman Dan Lungren, Jenny Williamson. Location is Placer County proposed site for Courage House Northern California, a home to house and heal girls who have been involved in the illicit sex trafficking industry of our area.
When the other $500,000 has been raised and the house remodeled, the healing can being with six girls to start.
“They will have an on-site school. They’ll be evaluated educationally and emotionally. They’ll be exposed to trauma therapy and equine therapy,” she says. “They’ll get a chance to see the purpose for their purpose. Their life plans will be customized. If some want to prepare to go to college, we’ll help them get there. If some want do pursue a trade, we’ll work it out.”
Pleased and impressed with what already has been done, Lungren praised Williamson’s work and the interagency collaboration.
“It’s wonderful being able to see the combination of local and federal authorities attacking the problem of human trafficking,” he says. “But after prosecution, what do you do with the girls? The beauty is a private, faith-based foundation is doing this work. And that’s great.”
HOW TO HELP
Start by visiting Jenny Williamson’s Web site: www. c2bu.dreamhosters.com. There’s lots of information about how the organization got started and how it hopes to expand. But that won’t happen unless the donations come in. You can do that on the Web site, too.
For those who want to get even more involved by training to be counselors or CASA advocates, there’s information about how to do that.
“Before any individual can recognize their potential and discover their purpose, their most basic needs must be met. But on our city streets and in every country around the world, there are a multitude of vulnerable young children that don’t have their needs met. These children are being exploited, abused and sold. They need to be rescued. They need a safe place t belong. They need someone to assure them they have value and a God- given purpose. They need someone to believe in them,” Williamson said.