I’m excited to introduce you to Debbie Allen of BeLoved Atlanta, which provides a program and residential home for women who desire freedom from sexual exploitation in the city of Atlanta. Debbie is the Director of Operations and works with the residents on their daily logistics including transportation, doctor appointments, and documentation requirements etc. You’re going to love her.
When did you first learn about the issue of sex trafficking?
My first detailed information about trafficking was when I went to Costa Rica to serve with LightForce International, an anti-trafficking, non-profit organization working in San Jose.
What conferences did you attend to learn more about the issue?
I attended the Passion Conferences as they promoted the End It Movement. The speakers opened my eyes to many of the realities of trafficking and what was going on around the world and our city. As we moved forward in starting BeLoved Atlanta, we reached out to other programs like Magdalene House in Nashville and Refuge for Women in Lexington. Anna Carroll of LightForce.
How did you get involved in the fight?
Amelia Quinn, Kelley Stagnaro, and I realized there was a huge need in our city for residential programs for women seeking freedom from trafficking. I knew in my heart that you can want to change all day long but if you are not safe, have a roof over your head, food on the table, and a support system with resources you will have a very difficult time moving forward towards freedom. BeLoved Atlanta was incorporated June 28, 2012 and we opened our first home March 12, 2012.
Have you ever worked with other organizations in the fight?
BeLoved Atlanta loves partnering with any organizations that are fighting this battle. Out of Darkness, HavenATL, 4Sarah, True North Freedom Project, Wellspring Living, and NightLight are wonderful organizations we work with but there are many others that are doing great work in our city. It takes all of us working together, learning together, and supporting each other to make a difference and work towards freedom for exploited women this in our city.
What is the hardest part of what you do?
The stories you hear, the hopelessness in the women’s eyes, and the size of this issue are the hardest things for me to handle. I think many people sit in two arenas on this issue: lack of information about the topic or defeat in feeling I am just one person and it is so big. I have found for me that I get to see the individual affects a program like BeLoved can have and that brings me hope and belief that we each can make a difference. Yes, the issue is huge but for the 4 women in the BeLoved Atlanta program everything has changed.
What is your greatest blessing?
The blessing for me has been the joy of watching a women living in defeat begin to dream of a future. I have seen hopelessness change to hope, defeat change to success, the devalued begin to know their value and for me that makes it all worth it. No I can’t change everything, save everything, or stop this devastating industry but I have been a part of the life changes of a few individual women and that has blessed me so much.
What do you feel is the weak link in the fight against sex trafficking?
Twofold- we have to continue raising awareness, that we still have people in the United States that don’t know this is a major issue in our country. It’s not just international, it is a huge problem. Also, we all have to do something! This will take every one of us and we all have a part to play and something we can do. We must have a culture shift so that treating children, women, boys, and men, as property is not acceptable. Think of MADD or smoking 20 years ago and how cultural thinking has been changed. We must educate what healthy sexuality is and what is acceptable and what is not in our country and the world. Prostitution is almost always a result of unhealthy experiences in a woman’s past and jail does not provide any hope or resources for future healthy choices.
What role do you feel pornography plays in sex trafficking?
Pornography has become so accessible at younger and younger ages. It changes what a person thinks, finds attractive, and desires. It is an addiction and as all addictions it grows and grows and needs more extreme activity to be satisfied but the difference with this addiction compared to others is there is no way to detox from it. You can’t go to rehab and get it out of your system, you can only learn to handle it. Pornography does lead to a need for more sexual stimulation, which easily leads to purchasing sexual partners.
Thank you, Debbie for your time and insight into this issue. For those of you wanting to connect with Debbie and learn more about BeLoved Atlanta, you can do so here. Their goal over the next year is to open a larger home providing resources to 6-8 women. Their current home and program provides resources for 4 women age 22 and over. They are the only home in the city specifically for women over 22 coming out of sexual exploitation. If you would like to support this goal and the work they do financially, you can do so here.
Today, I’ll leave you with come final words from Debbie. They’re powerful. Read them, then do something!
These are mothers, daughter, sisters, brothers, and sons- they have a face, a heart, feelings and are valued children of God. We are called to help those in need. Ignorance is not an excuse! It’s too overwhelming is not an excuse! To the one person you help it is everything! “