God’s Intersection: Connecting three lives to battle human sex trafficking!
by: Elaine H. Baldwin/@elainehbaldwin
A youth specialist. A businesswoman. A cop.
What do these three people have in common? They all showed up at God’s intersection. They didn’t plan to be there. In fact they worked very hard not to be there. Nor did they know their lives would cross at this God ordained intersection. But God knew and He had a plan to equip them personally and collectively. It was His timing and His God-sized handprint that brought these three unsuspecting individuals together to fight the war on local human sex trafficking in Yakima Valley.
First let’s meet these three individuals.
The youth specialist is Suzi Carpino. Suzi works with troubled youth, specifically gang members in Yakima County. This specific work began when a two-year grant was given to identify youth involved with gangs and those vulnerable to gang influence. What Suzi found was an organized network of sex trafficking which persisted as a victimless crime. Tenacious to a fault, Suzi was not going to allow under aged girls to continue their suffering in silence. She became their voice.
The businesswoman is Danielle Surkatty. Danielle is local businesswoman in Yakima, WA and a member of the women’s club, Zonta International. Danielle’s involvement with local sex trafficking began when a young new member of her Zonta club attended a conference where sex trafficking was a topic. She returned begging Danielle, the president of the club at the time, to find a way for the club to get involved with the issue. What ensued were weeks and months of research and networking with the end result of the Zonta Club of Yakima Valley becoming an anti-sex trafficking advocacy force to be reckoned with throughout the valley.
The cop is Chief Deputy William Shank. Chief Shank started his journey to this God intersection on the front lines of gang activity. He had firsthand experience with the crimes and costs of the gang lifestyle. Understandably so, he viewed gang members as homegrown terrorists that needed to be taken off the streets and shipped out of Yakima Valley; including under aged prostitutes. But God wouldn’t let him keep that viewpoint even while he tried to keep the sex victimization argument out of the discussion.
God Handprint Number One:
Suzi Carpino reported back about her program to the grant backers in Seattle. They were so impressed with her findings and initial success in removing teens from trafficking that they extended the grant through 2014.
Then Suzi embarked on a campaign of awareness to anyone who would listen and especially to those who did not want to listen. Let’s face it, no one in city hall, the police department or the chamber of commerce wanted to hear that minor children were being sold as sex slaves in their community. And, that may well be how most upstanding citizens would respond.
God Handprint Number Two:
Then one day Suzi was sitting in her office when a little gal showed up and just wanted to sit and be safe for a little while. While this child caught in sex trafficking was hanging out in her office a local pastor came to meet her. This man was sent by those who wanted Suzi to stop being quite so vocal. God had another plan in mind.
After hearing the young girl’s story, this pastor not only changed his own mindset on the problem of sex trafficking, but he also became one of Suzi’s biggest advocates to the very people who wanted to stop her work.
God Handprint Number Three:
The city manager arranges for a unbiased crime analyst to gather all information related to gang sex trafficking in the Yakima area. The goal was to prove that it was not a huge problem and that those involved, including the girls, were criminals to be eradicated. What the crime analyst found was just the opposite. Minor-aged girls (some as young as 12) were being forced into prostitution by their gang leaders (often family members) for money, drugs and weapons. The facts could not be argued against and the crime analyst actually helped “clean house” of the misconceptions surrounding human sex trafficking within gang activity.
God Handprint Number Four:
God changed the heart of some local law enforcement personnel, including Deputy Shank through the crime analyst’s report and through the local pastor supporting Suzi Carpino’s work. And in the meantime, God brought Suzi and Danielle and the Zonta club together to raise funds to complete the work on a sex trafficking awareness video. First $687 was raised; the exact amount needed to pay for a next step in the video production. Then $400 was raised which was enough to complete the video project.
But, what would it take to get all three of these individuals to work in tandem together?
Answer: A discussion forum at a local church set up by the local pastor.
It was at this event that Deputy Shank apologized publically for his resistance to changing his attitude toward girls involved in prostitution. He said, “I’m sorry. I do care. And there is a God who loves you.” He committed to putting past personality differences aside and to work together within God’s plan.
In the audience that night were Danielle Surkatty and a local female gang member struggling with leaving that culture. She heard the deputy’s apology and took it as a personal message for her. Since that night Danielle has often said this one night was a big win in the battle within their community. And since that night these three individuals: a cop, a businesswoman, and a youth specialist have kept their commitment to work together to rescue young women from gang sex trafficking.
To learn more about these front line groups click Here the links below.