Let me tell you about Hope
Hope is in high school. She lives with her mom in the metro Atlanta area. She’s a lovely young girl, very ‘girl next door’. Good grades, parental support, active in her local church. She likes having sleepovers with her best friends and is a voracious reader. She’s an average high school student, much like many of the high schoolers you know.
But Hope’s world has recently been turned upside down. Her and her mom move to a new neighborhood. Sexual assault leads her down a path of exploitation and vulnerability. Her grades slip, she becomes withdrawn. Then her world crashes down around her and she finds herself in an unimaginable situation.
Hope is ‘groomed’ by a man who claims to love her. He buys her things, tells her she’s pretty and acts like he’s there for her when she needs him. He works on her and gets her impressionable mind to trust him. Then, through force and coercion, he kidnaps her and then beats and drugs her into submission. Hope is then trapped in a nightmare that feels like it will never end.
Hope’s story may seem farfetched, but it’s not. Hope is the title character of Susan Norris’ new book, “Rescuing Hope”. Susan is a local author who penned this novel based around the stories of countless survivors of CSEC (Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children). The protagonist that emerged from her story, Hope, is a symbol of the horrific conditions and circumstances hundreds of girls in Atlanta endure on a regular basis. There are an estimated 100 girls in Atlanta raped for profit every night. Atlanta is in the top 14 of US cities for domestic minor sex trafficking. 70% of all runaway youth are coerced into the sex industry. (Source link here)
Hope represents girls from every socioeconomic and racial background. She represents girls from the cities, suburbs and rural parts of our state. It’s easy to think that sex trafficking only occurs in urban centers with high rates of poverty, but that is not the case. With our increased connectivity through social media, any young girl is at risk. Abuse, and vulnerability (like absent parents or poverty) can play a large role in a girl’s likelihood to be trafficked, but the risk is there for most girls.
Susan has become a friend of mine in the fight to end human trafficking. This book is an incredible read and is an amazing resource for anyone who knows a teenage girl. It’s a great book for mothers to read with their teenage daughters or in a small group study. It’s enlightening and captures your attention. I read it in one sitting, I couldn’t put it down. It can be a way to start a conversation with the young girls in your life about the importance of being careful online and around strangers in public settings. We don’t want to think about this happening to the young girls in our lives who we love, but we need to have the tough conversations so it doesn’t become a reality. We need to be aware so we can protect our girls.
Hope’s story has a positive ending but I don’t want to divulge too many details because I want you to read the book. But not all of the girls affected by this atrocity have happy endings. We need to work together to make sure none of Georgia’s girls have to endure what Hope had to endure. We need to be educated and aware of the issue. We need to talk to the young girls in our lives so they know how to be safe. And we need to encourage the men in our lives to not purchase sex. Up to 25% of Georgia men have purchased sex at some point. That’s a huge, disgusting number that needs to be greatly reduced.
There are so many things you and I can do to protect the “Hopes” in our lives. Pick up Susan’s book and learn about Hope, and think and pray about how you can get involved. There are many ways you can make a difference, and if we all work together, we will end this atrocity once and for all.