On Friday, February 28 and Saturday, March 1, the LIFE Conference was held at the newly renamed University of Mount Olive. Many people were asked to hold workshops on various subjects but one young couple stood out from the rest. Chris and Anna Smith spoke about their ministry, Restore One. Restore One was founded in June of 2012 after Anna held an internship at a restoration house for minor sex trafficked girls. It was during this time that Anna found the calling on her life to fight against human trafficking.
After working in this field for some time Chris and Anna decided to found their own ministry. At the conference Anna revealed a statistic that many people aren’t aware of and that is North Carolina is in the top 10 for human trafficking. Some of the big contributors to this are the major highways that run through North Carolina and the several military bases. Common patterns for luring victims into sex trafficking include: the promise of a good job in another country; false marriage proposal into a bondage situation; being sold into the sex trade by parents, husbands, and boyfriends; and getting kidnapped by traffickers. Sex Traffickers often subject their victims to debt-bondage where traffickers tell their victims that they owe money (living expenses, transportation into the country, etc.) and they must repay the debt by pledging their personal services. Traffickers typically “condition” their victims using starvation, confinement, beatings, physical abuse, and many other methods. Physical risks to these victims include broken bones, sexually transmitted diseases, sterility, and forced abortions. Psychological harms include grief, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), suicide, and many other things no person should ever go through. Many suffer from traumatic bonding, the coercive control the perpetrator instills in the victim, which is fear and gratitude for being allowed to live. There are various forms of trafficking such as prostitution, pornography, stripping, live-sex shows, mail-order brides, military prostitution, and sex tourism. It is estimated that between 100,000–300,000 American youth are victims of Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking and the 325,000 more are at risk of becoming victims. It was also shown that 40–70% of street youth engage in prostitution to make ends meet. Restore One seeks to show them that there is another way to live. The government has set up many programs which help people get out of trafficking and integrate them back into society which is what Anna and Chris have set out to do. The problem is growing so fast that one day it will pass drugs as the number one global criminal enterprise.
Restore One was founded to open safe houses to help those who are victims of these horrific events. Today Chris and Anna are working to open the first shelter in the U.S. to strictly help sexually exploited and sex trafficked males. In the U.S. we see the males a lot of times as the perpetrator and not as a victim. The Anchor House will provide a program to help these boys heal and one day reintegrate them into society.
Studies have shown that many of the boys who attempted to leave the sex trade were discouraged because there were so few programs that were designated for males. In a study interviewing sexually exploited men 80% of them said there was a great need for programs that address the specific issues that men go through in the sex trade.
Chris and Anna have been working so diligently to get this project up and running that they have managed to get enough donations to start building the first cabin of the Anchor House. They shared with us during their speech that they get calls all the time about boys who are victims of DMST and don’t have anywhere to house them. This house will help so many young boys physically, mentally, and spiritually to grow into victors rather than victims.
The latest thing that Anna and Chris have been working on is teaming up with Black Tree Media Group to create a documentary called Boys. They will be traveling across the United States hearing testimonies and shedding some light on this horrific world. During Anna’s speech on Friday night she and Chris had just returned from Philadelphia where they met a man on the streets who told them that they were right in the middle of what is called the fruit-loop. This is the area where men go to pay for the sexual favors of other men. This atrocity cannot be allowed to continue and as fellow Christians we cannot sit back and do nothing. We must help those in need and show them the love and life that God can provide.
Restore One is always looking for new volunteers. If you cannot volunteer a donation would be greatly appreciated to help continue the construction of the Anchor House.