WASHINGTON – Sex trafficking is a close to $10 billion business. And statistics show that the average age of a young person when they're first trafficked is just 13 years old. One organization is trying to put an end to this pervasive crime, which is happening right in our area.
FAIR Girls empowers and supports survivors in the D.C. area, and all over the country. Andrea Powell is its founder, "Almost all the girls that we serve, which is over 100 American girls a year, were sold on websites all over the city so not only is the problem pervasive but it's right in our face."
In fact, the FBI lists DC as the 14th busiest city for sex trafficking in the country.
Powell is a force of nature, often working around the clock to help new victims who contact the non-profit. FAIR Girls held its annual gala called 'Pearls With A Purpose' at the Long View Gallery in Northwest D.C.
Thursday night, to raise money and awareness to fight this issue. A packed room listened to speakers, including survivor Stacey Jewell Lewis who is now a playwright, and a survivor named Ashleigh who is now a college sophomore and aspiring makeup artist.
Stacey says she was trafficked when she was 19, and forced to live a life of prostitution. She says she kept her story to herself for more than a decade, and learned how to tell her story after seeing spoken word artists bare their souls.
She says all survivors need a chance, "They actually made it through this, they are strong beautiful individuals who deserve a chance."
Among the speakers were model and actress Alessia Sushko. Sushko came to New York from Saint Petersburg, Russia with just $350 dollars in her pocket. She says she worked hard and persevered tough times until she could support herself.
She shared that there were many times she wanted to give up, but she put her fear aside and kept pressing on. She spoke to empower female survivors and inspire them to put their fear aside and know that they are worth it.
Also speaking at the event was Victoria's Secret model Elsa Hosk. Hosk is a supporter of FAIR Girls and read a powerful poem written by a survivor named Ashley.
Lastly, businesswoman Deb Conver took the stage. She is a member of FAIR Girls Board. WUSA9 Reporter and Anchor Debra Alfarone was the evening's emcee.
If you want to learn more about FAIR Girls, click here: www.fairgirls.org
If you suspect someone you know is a victim of sex trafficking, call the National Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.