Preventing Trafficking by Changing Hearts and Minds
– By Mitzi Perdue
Everyone has his or her own story for why they want to combat human trafficking. In the case of Jennifer Keltner, Founder of Rescue Party Give, it began when she was a terrified little girl.
A Child’s Sense of Security is Ripped Away
As you hear Keltner tell what happened, you get the impression that it’s like a film, with flashbacks and jump cuts. The first scene is when she’s a three-year old, happily playing by herself in her family’s back yard.
“There was a 14-year old boy in the yard next to where I was,” she remembers. “He held up a bright, shiny quarter. I was fascinated. He wanted me to come over and see it.”
The boy lured her over to his house.
Keltner’s voice quavers as she recounts what happened next, almost as if reliving it: “We’re on the porch. He’s pulling my diapers down. He’s touching me.”
If this were a documentary, the camera would now pull back and Keltner would voice-over, using a firm, factual, almost clinical tone: “The touching was in the genital area. Technically, this is assault.”
The next thing the camera would show is an extreme close-up of Keltner’s mother clutching her little girl tightly against her chest. The camera would pull back to a medium close-up, seeing that the mother with her mouth wide open, screaming and screaming at the top of her lungs, shouting to the neighbors about what had happened.
Flash forward to a hospital room. A doctor is telling the mother, “Your daughter is OK. Her hymen has not been broken.”
Permanent Awareness of Vulnerability
For the rest of her life, Keltner has felt gratitude to her mother for saving her from something that had the potential of being truly awful. She still has some unanswered questions. “Was the boy beaten for his act? Did he become a pedophile?”
This experience left Keltner with an awareness that children are vulnerable and that in a moment, what seems like carefree safety can be transformed into terror that leaves a mark for the rest of a person’s life.
Keltner’s career has been in the travel industry. However, because of her lifelong interest in and empathy for the vulnerable, she’s been eager to help anti-trafficking organizations, such as the International Justice Mission (IJM).
In 2012, she helped IJM raise a million dollars in one evening. “I collaborated with my travel industry colleagues to create numerous amazing different silent auction items.” These included VIP trips to Turkey, or adventures with Navy Seals or complementary stays at Marriott Hotels.
Thinking back on this volunteer experience, she points out, “It was the first time IJM ever raised a million dollars in a single evening.”
Today, as the founder of Rescue Party Give, she is still working on innovative ways to stop human trafficking. In this case, she’s aiming at something that few other anti-trafficking organizations focus on.
Prevent the Demand
“Our goal,” she explains, “is to help prevent the demand.”
How does she go about this? “Rescue Party Give creates beautiful family-centered neighborhood events. In a typical one, the event is free, and we have anti-trafficking films, musicians performing songs of freedom, and local restaurants will donate heavy hors d’oeuvres and wine.”
It’s something everyone can get behind, including having kids hear stories that will help keep them safe. The whole community hears how huge the problem of trafficking is, and how important it is to protect the community’s children.
People who attend one of the Rescue Party Give events no longer accept the idea of turning a blind eye to sexual exploitation.
Fathers who have been to one of these aren’t going to think it’s cool to have sons go to a brothel as a rite of passage.. Instead, they see that what’s really at stake is modern slavery with human beings for sale.
Keltner aims to address human trafficking on a subliminal level. Her goal is for people to understand at a deep, deep level that exploiting other people is wrong.
For more information go to www.rescuepartygive.org and volunteer your talent, or host a RescuePartyGive event in your neighborhood.
About The Author
Mitzi Perdue is a businesswoman, author, and Founder of Win This Fight, Stop Human Trafficking Now. She holds a B.A. degree with honors from Harvard University and a Master's from George Washington University. She's a past president of the 40,000 member American Agri-Women, and she was a U.S. Delegate to the United Nations Conference on Women in Nairobi. She was also a Commissioner for the National Commission on Libraries and Information Science. Her Scripps Howard column, The Environment and You, was for years the most widely syndicated environmental column in the U.S.
She is the founder and president of “Win This Fight! Stop Human Trafficking Now,” an organization that raises funds and awareness for other anti-trafficking initiatives.