Kay Bennett is the director of Baptist Friendship House in New Orleans, a ministry working with homeless women and children who are easy prey for human traffickers. We sat down with Kay to ask her about human trafficking.
Q. How does human trafficking present itself in New Orleans?
A. In New Orleans, we have a lot of prostitution, a lot of clubs on Bourbon Street and we’re located on I-10, the highest rated corridor for trafficking in the country.
These things make it easy for vulnerable girls to be transported through the city and sold for sex.
Q. Who is vulnerable to being trafficked?
A. Human trafficking is everywhere, which really means anyone is susceptible. However, it is really easy for someone living in desperation to be lured into a trafficking situation and then be held captive there.
New Orleans, for example, is an attraction for runaways, and runaways are attractive to traffickers. We are trying to intercept these vulnerable girls and bring them into our program before they get lost. If they’ve been trafficked and rescued, we’re able to work with local law enforcement to get them into a safe house.
Q. How does Baptist Friendship House reach those being trafficked or those vulnerable to it?
A. We are meeting needs through love, action and truth.
Most of the women who come into our transitional program are getting out of bad situations. The important thing to realize is that these women often get stuck in vicious cycles of addiction or abuse, and if there’s not someone there to help them break the cycle, they have a hard time breaking free.
Through Baptist Friendship House, I’m able to come alongside them and help them get out of the cycle for good. Again, we can work with law enforcement to be present for those trafficked and rescued.
We have several ways we meet the needs of survivors, victims and women and children vulnerable to trafficking. We have a shower ministry in which women are able to come in, take a shower, get clean clothes and have a snack. We serve meals, provide clothes and offer educational opportunities to achieve GEDs. We give out Bibles and encourage them with the hope of the gospel.
We give them housing, offer professional therapy and do whatever it takes to be intentional about their mental, physical and spiritual well-being.
Q. How long has Baptist Friendship House been restoring dignity to human trafficking victims and survivors in New Orleans?
A. This year, Baptist Friendship House will celebrate 75 years of ministry in the city of New Orleans. We are grateful for the many ways the Lord has continued to bless this ministry center.
Q. What piece of advice would you give to those wanting to fight human trafficking?
A. In ministering to the exploited, Jesus Christ is the foundation you build everything off of. Whatever gift God has given you, that is what He wants you to use to help release and restore.
But those interested in helping should start by thinking of human trafficking as one person at a time; it can be overwhelming to take in the full magnitude of the issue.
I would encourage people to pray. Take a moment to pray for the individuals still being controlled by traffickers.
Pray for the individuals who have gained freedom from traffickers as they continue the healing journey. Pray that the traffickers will experience a change of heart and turn from their evil ways. Pray that the people who pay for sex with victims will recognize the crime they are fueling and cease to participate in this crime.
Pray for law enforcement and agencies/organizations, like Baptist Friendship House, that fight human trafficking and serve victims and survivors.
Your prayers and support play a vital role in ending trafficking.