“The work I do is important to me because I am a survivor of Human Trafficking – Sex Trafficking to be specific. The first time I was exploited was when I was 15 and homeless. Off and on throughout my late teens and into my 20’s I was prostituted. Lucky to have made it out alive, the life is four years behind me today. I am a survivor, an advocate, and a mentor. I am one of many who fight this problem every day alongside an exceptional team of experts.
My organization—the Organization for Prostitution Survivors (OPS)—works with community partners to end the demand for sex buying and to provide support and exit services for victims. We also provide trainings and educate the community about this issue and why “sex buying” is an issue concerning everyone. To accomplish our mission, OPS is apart of a well-rounded team called CEASE – Coordinated Effort Against Sexual Exploitation, led by the City of Seattle Human Services Department/Mayor’s Office on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault. We are a group of non-profits, public and law enforcement agencies. The results have been phenomenal. Nationally on the issue of prostitution, we are unique. Similar collaborations really don’t exist elsewhere in the United States, and what we are doing is working.
Everything that OPS works to accomplish would not be possible without a group like CEASE. Sex Trafficking is everyone’s issue – and thankfully in Seattle, law enforcement and the local government is trying something new—something revolutionary. We are arresting men instead of women.
I recently joined the CEASE group, and as a survivor of commercial sexual exploitation I couldn’t be more inspired. For the last year and a half, I have been working in survivor services at OPS to help survivors along their journey. I have received mentorship from women like Noel Gomez, co-founder of OPS. The internal leadership structure of OPS supports survivors to build a community of sisterhood, unlike any I have seen or heard of anywhere.
Not only have I personally lived my own miracle, I now witness miracles within the women I serve. It’s important to have survivors doing this work, and unfortunately not enough survivors are. One of the programs that the City of Seattle has supported is a diversion program. This is where I initially met many women. Something powerful happened in this class. We discussed the argument of “choice” and how nobody “chooses” prostitution. The majority of women who came through this class were survivors of human trafficking and don’t even know it. This is why teams like CEASE, which supports one another, are so crucial to ending the demand for prostitution and helping women build stable lives without exploitation.
Unfortunately, often times the community sees prostitution as a nuisance and a moral problem, which gets placed upon the person being exploited. Many of the women who I support were around 16 the first time they were exploited. Once you’re in, you’re stuck and you’re lucky if you ever get out.
Sex trafficking happens every day in our communities and neighborhoods. It does not require that a person be kidnapped and driven out of state or shipped on a boat across the sea. It’s as simple as being 16 and having nowhere to go and needing shelter and food to eat. Poverty, homelessness, and abuse are three major contributing factors that make a person vulnerable to being trafficked.
So, we continue to work the days, weeks, and months here at OPS to serve the women that come to us. We have forged a community of sisterhood, and sisterhood does not exist on the street. Women come to OPS for a few things – it’s a place where they feel community, find healing, and receive services. It is the place I found community, and where a lot of my story and path to healing began.”
Kyra Doubek is an Advocate with the Organization for Prostitution Survivors; a local grassroots non-profit organization founded by survivors and support survivors of commercial sexual exploitation. OPS provides survivor support services, outreach, training, and advocacy. For more information: http://seattleops.org/