Founder of For the Sake of One (a Christian non-profit organization with the mission to prevent, heal, and rescue children from domestic child sex trafficking)
Spokesperson for faith-based initiative of the National Child I.D. Program - in conjunction with American Football Coaches’ Assn. (AFCA) and FBI
Melissa Woodward: A Sex Slave's Story
By Zsa Zsa Palagyi
The 700 Club
CBN.com -MELISSA’S STORY: FROM SEX TRAFFICKING TO SALVATION
Melissa grew up with dreams of being a police officer and a mother, but a family member of hers had other plans. In the late 1980s, this individual groomed Melissa to be a sex slave in the Dallas/Ft.Worth area. He physically abused and sexually molested her until the age of 12 and then began selling Melissa to other men. In the 6th grade, Melissa was yanked out of school to go full-time into sex trafficking. “You get lavished with so many gifts and get treated like you’re a piece of property. You’re too scared to tell anybody, who’s going to listen to you? The only way to survive is to be silent. I would wake up in weird places with men, none of whom I ever knew. But I knew something wasn’t right. I’d get burn marks on me. I’d have bruises on my face. Somehow in the morning, I’d get on the city bus and make my way back home, and just cry.”
Not long after, Melissa was sold by her family member into the underground world of sex trafficking. She was housed in warehouse quarters (called stables) where all she got each day was a sandwich and water. She and 14 other girls were chained to twin beds during the day, and rarely taken to the bathroom. The girls were given ice-cold showers to reduce the swelling on their little bodies. Attendants would cover-up Melissa’s bruises from the night before, put make-up on her, and then present her to another group of men for more abuse and profit. This happened night after night until she felt like “hamburger meat.” She would service between 5 to 30 men a night. Some clients were regulars - and held her. Others beat her and tortured her, but she couldn’t make a sound. Melissa thought it might be better to die than to endure the nightly torture. Then one night, she found herself on fire. “It hurt so bad,” she says--- but she could not make a noise. “That was his fantasy,” she says, “to see a child burn to death.” After this, she was no longer profitable. And while her family member sold her into the sex trafficking ring to “just kill her,” she was somehow spared—and ended up in a garbage can instead. She had several extensive surgeries and it took a long time to recover from her injuries.
At 14, she had to figure out how to survive on the streets. She met an older man who became her pimp. She says she didn’t think she was good for anything else. Melissa worked the streets and then at 18 began stripping. She loved to fight and ended up in jail 28 times by the time she was 25. She had no concept of what love was and didn’t know how to have real relationships with anyone. Despite the fact that doctors said the abuse she’d undergone would prohibit her from having children, she gave birth to two girls and one boy. All have different fathers. But Melissa was not able to take care of her kids the way she wanted to. Her stripping, drug use, alcohol addiction, and exotic dancing always took precedence. She did not want to live like this. At 27, she gave her children to her mother and went on a suicide trip. She successfully fired a gun one time into a lake and then turned it on herself. But the gun would not go off the three times she pulled the trigger. Defeated, Melissa checked herself into the hospital.
When she came out, she felt ready to be the kind of mom her kids needed. Her five-year-old daughter came to visit her and shared with Melissa about her “big Jesus.” Melissa listened but knew there was no way Jesus could love her, after all she had done. But after her daughter went to bed, God got ahold of Melissa’s heart. She asked Him where He was while she was going through all of the abuse and trafficking. She says God told her that He was carrying her. She surrendered her life to Jesus outside in a rainstorm and felt clean for the very first time. This was in May 2005. She woke up without the urge to drink or do drugs. She left her dancing behind and pressed into the word of God. It has been a gradual process for her to forgive and it is not a one-time thing. Melissa has learned to forgive not only her family member and the men who abused her, but also herself. She says it took her far longer to forgive herself because she shouldered the blame that was not hers. She married a man named Richard – and is now raising her children. She’s done some underground stings with police officers and has worked with the law enforcement agency to train police on trafficking. Her heart is to help rescue and take care of girls who are being trafficked in America; to prevent children from falling prey to trafficking; and to see the men who are wrapped-up in trafficking and pornography turn to Jesus and receive His love.
SEX TRAFFICKING IN AMERICA- LOGISTICS
Sex trafficking is a 7 billion dollar business in the United States. Since there are currently no consistent or accurate ways of tracking these crimes, statistics may vary. According to the sources of these statistics at the time of this writing, up to 300,000 girls and boys are sold in the US every year; 25% are groomed by their parents or family members and 75% are former runaways. Each year, 1.7 million children run away from home. From that number, 90% will be approached by traffickers within 48 hours. Girls are between 9 and 17, with the average age of entry into sex trafficking being between 12 and 14. For boys, the average entry age is 11-13. The most common spots for a child to be lured into trafficking are junior high and high schools, the Internet, shopping malls, parks, playgrounds, and foster homes. A prostituted child is forced to serve 100 to 1,500 clients per year. There are 56,000 U.S. produced websites that sell child pornography, and 1/5 of the images are of minors. All fifty states have reported cases of domestic sex trafficking, with the most activity in Texas, Nevada, California, and New York. The US is one of the top three destination points for victims in the world, yet many states lack laws and resources needed to assist these victims. Currently, only 1 out of 100,000 traffickers ever serve time for his crime.
MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT SEX TRAFFICKING IN AMERICA
Many people do not understand what sex trafficking really is. In the United States, the Trafficking Victims Violence Prevention Act of 2000 (TVPA) defined and classified child sex trafficking as “the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person forced to perform such an act is under the age of eighteen years old.” Therefore, sex trafficking can include, but is not limited to the following: sex slavery, child sex trafficking, prostitution of children, and commercial exploitation of children. However, the victims of sex trafficking often receive legal punishment for the crimes that are committed against them. No child wants to sell his or her body on the streets. Most come from troubled homes or abusive situations and are simply trying to escape those situations when lured into trafficking.
Individuals buying and selling children are after money and control. It’s not a business run by thugs and frequented by such people. Clients of the underground world are often businessmen, doctors, lawyers—and people of power—who can pay upwards of $3,000 to $5,000 per hour for a 9-year-old virgin girl. Some online sites sell young people for as low as $40. Also, women are luring the children into trafficking just as much as men.
OUTREACH AND PREVENTION
Melissa is the founder of For the Sake of One (FSO). FSO’s mission is to prevent, heal, and rescue children from domestic sex trafficking. FSO’s foundational belief is that a single life transformed is worth whatever the price. As of 2010, there were only 100 beds for victims of domestic sex trafficking in the US, and each bed had a waiting list. Due to the lack of safe houses and limited services, most children have nowhere to go when they get out of trafficking, and consequently return to the hands of their traffickers. To combat this, FSO is working to start “Isaiah’s House.” This will be open to all children of domestic sex trafficking, ages 11-17, with a primary focus on Texas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana. Each child will be provided medical services, extensive counseling, schooling, and life skills to prepare them for a brighter future. The long-term goal of “Isaiah’s House” is the construction of homes that will help 280 children rebuild their lives.
Melissa has also just been named the spokesperson for The National Child Identification Program’s faith- based initiative, which works with the American Football Coaches’ Association (AFCA) and the FBI to provide vital means for locating the nation’s missing, abducted, and runaway children.The organization is recognized byCongress and is launching a new inkless ID fingerprint kit that bears a cross. Getting the Child I.D. Kits into the hands of parents and guardians is the secret to the success of the program. The kit gives parents and guardians the opportunity to record their child’s fingerprints, records, picture, and DNA and can be kept in a safe place in case of an emergency. If a child is missing, law enforcement authorities can use the child’s completed I.D. Kit to scan the child’s fingerprints into the National Crime Information Center database. These fingerprints can then be used to help locate the child in a variety of ways. For instance, if a child has been abducted or has gone missing, but then goes to get his or her driver’s license—the child will be identified. In a like manner, if a child has run away and is then picked up by a law enforcement officer and is fingerprinted, there can be a reunion. If a child has been trafficked and has a run-in with the law, he or she can also be reunited with his or her parents. And the nightmare can end for the children. Faith-based Child I.D. Kits are sold through (NCDIP). The National Child Identification Program is going to give a portion of each one sold to Melissa’s organization For the Sake of One to help prevent sex trafficking in America and ultimately rescue and provide healing for those who are getting out of it.
National Trafficking Hotline: 888-373-7888; sample letters to senators at www.ForTheSakeOfOne.org. For the Child I.D. Kits please visit: http://www.childidprogram.com/general-info/faith-based-information/the-700-club.
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