When we created the Coalition Against Sexual Exploitation (CASE) in 2009, I always said that it would take a community to address the problems associated with the exploitation of our children, and since that time, several government agencies, non-profits and faith-based organizations have taken significant action in this area.
There really are so many heroes in our community fighting this fight—people like Peggy Stapleton who met with me in my office a few years back and told me about her plan to end human trafficking in San Bernardino County. Since that time, she has formed Christians Actively Demolishing Exploitation (CADE) and they are taking significant steps to not only educate our community but working to secure safe housing for exploited youth.Other names that surface are Pastor Paula Daniels and Anne Michelle Ellis, who both appeared in our documentary on human trafficking. Pastor Paula is the founder of Rachel’s House, a home for exploited women. She is currently working to open a Drop-in and Resource Center on Baseline Avenue in San Bernardino, where sexually exploited girls can meet with staff without the interference from their pimp. Whether it’s offering spiritual guidance or just being able to provide a place to relax, her goal is focused on leading these young girls back onto the right “track.”
Go to any outreach meeting in the community and you’ll see Anne-Michelle Ellis standing at the CASE information table or sitting on the panel or mingling in the crowd. Just last week we were honored to have her appear on the panel for a screening of Teenage $ex 4 $ale at the Southwest Conference Against Trafficking. Anne Michelle’s passion, expertise and voice has made a mark on our community, much like Lesford Duncan, whose youth and vibrant personality is an inspiration. When you talk to him, you get the strong sense of a young man who is committed and passionate about helping community, and I look forward to the great work he is bringing to our community through The Mary Magdalene Project.
My list of heroes fighting this fight is so long, and I couldn’t even begin to name them all, but there is one more, one that initially sparked this writing.
Yesterday while we were visiting the shelter, Darry Evey mentioned that Ashley Furniture had donated several items to their home. This was the same Ashley Furniture that had donated all the beds and couches and tables and just about all the furnishings for Rachel’s House. There was a subtle connection there, and it was nice to see that our local businesses were doing their part as well to make a difference in the lives of our exploited youth.
In the last five years, we have come a long way in this area, and we have made several connections and changes and commitments that I suspect will have a lasting impact throughout our community. As we move forward, one thing is certain—and I’ll steal a phrase from Peggy Stapleton’s mission statement—“Together we are better.”
-- District Attorney Michael Ramos