A self-described former prostitute and drug addict is hosting a workshop Saturday to educate people about sex trafficking and train them how to combat it.
Theresa Briscoe, founder of the faith-based Significant Other Ministries, has battled against sex trafficking in Wichita for more than 11 years, bringing women off the streets and into her home to counsel them and help them find jobs. She said she knows firsthand how difficult it is for women to leave the trade.
“I don’t know statistics,” she said. “I know experience. Victims of sex trafficking build walls up around themselves. Many of them come from abusive homes and think that because their families don’t care no one does.”
At the event, from 9 a.m. to noon at the United Methodist Church at the Well, 11215 W. 13th St., Briscoe will talk about her experiences. She ran away from an abusive home at age 13, became homeless and was in the sex trafficking trade until she was 29, when she met two Sunday school teachers who insisted on befriending her and praying for her. Now Briscoe wants to do the same for others, she said.
“The hard part about combating sex trafficking is knowledge,” she said. “Most people believe that women in the sex trade chose to be there. This is not glamorous. This is slavery. This is abuse.
“We don’t know what to do, or what to say to women who are sexually exploited. I want people to be aware that they can view these women as family, that they can open their hearts to them. It will help them come off the streets and live happy, productive lives.”
The Center for Combating Human Trafficking at Wichita State University estimates that there are 300 to 400 Wichita-area children who are at risk of becoming sexual victims. Because sex crimes often go unreported, the issue could be more widespread, Outreach Coordinator Bailey Patton said.
“Just one person exploited is too many,” she said.
Twenty-nine cases of sex trafficking were reported to Wichita police in 2013, up from 11 reported cases in 2012. Gov. Sam Brownback signed a law in April 2013 that increased criminal penalties for sex trafficking and offer more help and services to victims of sexual exploitation.
“It’s happening here in your city,” Briscoe said. “I just want people to take responsibility and reach out to help. Even if you can’t go out on the streets, awareness is important.”