By EMILY MADDEN
Out of Darkness, an anti-sex trafficking organization located in Atlanta, has launched a 24-hour rescue hotline and several other ministries to help sex workers.
In early 2011, Jeff Shaw picked up a book called “Not For Sale.” Little did he know that book would forever change his life. David Batstone, the author of the book, wrote about how he traveled from country to country telling stories of those who are enslaved and how each time at least one person in the community would be moved to do something about it. The stories of enslaved people around the world rocked Shaw to the core.
“I was deeply broken by the revelation of the depth of suffering in the world,” he said, “but I was equally stirred to respond. I told God I would do whatever He asked of me.”
Shaw said that as he looked out onto the Atlanta skyline he had a vision of women and children crying out for deliverance from sexual slavery in the city. In that moment, the idea of a 24-hour rescue hotline for the city of Atlanta was born.
Two years later, Out of Darkness is a full-fledged anti-sex trafficking organization flanked with volunteers and affiliates. The organization features a variety of programs and ministries focused on helping those in the sex industry.
It runs a 24/7 hotline run by volunteers trained to answer rescue calls. When a rescue call is made, the hotline volunteer alert responders, who are trained to make contact and offer rescue to trafficking victims, answer the call. Each victim is offered a safe place to stay and restorative services. Not all phone calls lead to a rescue though.
“Sometimes women who have been trafficked or are living a life of prostitution just need a friend and we provide that for every woman who calls,” said Out of Darkness Ministry Director Rachel Eden. “It doesn’t matter how many times she calls, we will always be there to pick up the phone.”
Alongside direct rescue missions, the ministry formed a dedicated search team who scour the Internet to identify the sites where underage children are being sold for sex. They also find out who the exploiters selling them are and who the buying “Johns” are. All of the information they gather is provided to Atlanta law enforcement to assist in further investigation and prosecution.
Out of Darkness also will provide an outreach team and mentor program for women in recovery. This aspect of the organization is new and will be implemented within the next few months.
The outreach team will correspond with imprisoned prostitutes via mail and jail visits.
Out of Darkness workers believe that building healthy relationships is the foundation of their work and that trust and love are vital in order to change these women’s lives. They are looking for volunteers who are able to visit the women consistently and build nurturing relationships with them. Eden adds that they want the very best for the women.
“Our desire is to be actively involved each step of the way as a woman’s story unfolds and she takes steps to reach complete wholeness,” Eden said.
The ministry’s employees believe that constant love and care is key when walking alongside those who are trying to rebuild their lives.
In a city where sex-trafficking is prominent, Out of Darkness is flourishing.
“There will always be a need for prayer, people and finances,” Shaw said. “It takes a lot of manpower to reach, rescue and restore.”
He encourages those in the Atlanta area to get involved. Whether it be by posting hotline fliers, being a vocal advocate or providing love and support during the recovery process, there are many needs that a variety of people could help with.
Just as importantly, Shaw adds that he prays for open hearts.
“One of the most significant challenges is helping the women succeed once they have gone through a season of healing,” he said. “We need understanding communities who will provide physical, emotional, and spiritual support [for these girls].”
He believes that this is something that not just a few hundred volunteers can advocate, but that a whole city can support.
For more information visit Out of Darkness’ website www.outofdarkness.org.