Globally, there are 27 million people involved in human trafficking, and almost all of them are women and children. They are trafficking from South and Southeast Asia, Central and South America, the Middle East, Western Europe and North America.
And suburban Pennsylvania is not immune. According to Daniel Emr, executive director of Worthwhile Wear, a nonprofit that helps sex trafficking victims, there were three cases of sex trafficking in Bucks County in the past four months. Emr became aware of the issue of sex trafficking four years ago when someone spoke at his church about the issue. It grabbed his attention and never left him, he said. Emr made the decision to quit his job and begin his campaign against sex trafficking. Now, through Worthwhile Wear, he has devoted himself to serving an organization that runs a program in India focused on preventing entrance into and rescuing girls from the sex slave trade industry.
One of Worthwhile Wear’s new programs, set to launch in the summer of 2014, will address sex trafficking within Bucks and Montgomery counties. The problem with sex trafficking on a local level is that many women enter into it unknowingly, Emr said. Some women take what they think to be a legitimate job opportunity, working as a waitress, nanny or maid. By the time they are informed of the true nature of their work, it’s too late. The victims of sex trafficking who do escape their situation have very few options in front of them. Some women even return to prostitution, because it is the only life they know and they have few resources to move forward. Emr and his team are interested in doing something on a local level to help these women.
“We found that trafficking was happening in our area,” Emr said. “In the last four months, in Doylestown there were three trafficking cases — girls ranging from 13 to 17 years old. That spurred us to look into a way to provide resources and long-term housing for women who were victims of trafficking.” Nationally, there are just 37 houses for women who were once victims of sex trafficking, and Pennsylvania has just one. Emr said that statistic motivated him and his team to act, bringing Worthwhile Wear’s mission from India to Pennsylvania.
The project, called The Well, will offer long-term aftercare and a housing program focused on helping the women. By working in conjunction with other nonprofits in the area, The Well will provide women with comprehensive care, including long-term housing, job training and job placement, GED classes and tutoring, ESL classes, one-on-one classes and legal representation.
“When you hear about trafficking, the unfortunate side is that it’s black and white,” Emr said. “There are only two responses, really. You either do something, or you pretend you never heard about it.”
Learn more at Erin Weaver’s Montgomery Media article: Local organization works to end sex trafficking in Bucks, Montgomery counties.