ROCKWALL, TX (August 20, 2014) The sex traffic industry might seem a distant scourge, like something happening only in troubled third-world regions. It’s hard to fathom that modern-day slavery could exist in America, much less Texas. But one area woman knows it does.
Rebecca Jowers reaches out to women like Rachel, who ran away from an alcoholic home as a teen. When Rachel ran out of money, someone offered her a way to survive, and she joined the growing numbers of those who fall prey to sex traffickers.
Rebecca is a former math and science teacher who lives in Rockwall with her husband and four daughters. Maybe those girls—ages 14-20—had something to do with her passion for helping young women trapped in the sex trade.
She recently founded a ministry based in Rockwall, the Poiema Foundation, to raise awareness and support to prevent and alleviate human trafficking. “Poiema” comes from the Greek word for “handiwork” found in the New Testament, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do,” (Ephesians 2:10). The foundation seeks to offer self-worth to the sexually exploited, letting them know they have value in the eyes of their Creator.
Cycle of abuse
Rebecca’s awareness of the international problem of human trafficking began while attending Dallas Theological Seminary in recent years. It’s the fastest growing criminal industry globally, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. But when she came to realize it also thrives in theU.S., she couldn’t ignore the plight of those within her reach.
“It’s happening in Dallas, and even in Rockwall,” she says. I’ve seen it at North Park Mall, though if I hadn’t been in this ministry, I wouldn’t have known.”
She explains that sexual exploitation begins with a “honeymoon stage. These girls don’t see themselves as victims yet. They’re wined and dined by a ‘knight in shining armor’ who provides food, clothing and shelter, like a father-figure. They don’t understand rational love because they’ve never been in a stable home.”
In Texas alone, hundreds of girls are trafficked via online ads each month.
Developmental trauma can set up children for a cycle of mistreatment. Human traffickers find vulnerable young women (young men too) who’ve been raped or abused as children. They might receive the promise of marriage or a home. Instead, they end up in a house with other girls, forced to work the streets under the threat of harm.
Plans and preparations
Rebecca actively addressed this issue a year ago at her home church in Rockwall. After joining the Local Missions team atLakePointeChurch, she became “the team” for human trafficking. But she says this problem needs the strength of the wider body of Christ. She speaks to groups at other churches, schools, Rotary clubs and more.
She also reaches out to women taken off the streets of Dallas in a monthly Prostitution Diversion Initiative (PDI). Police and sheriff officers, healthcare workers and others come together in the late night operation. As a trained advocate, Rebecca talks to the women in the hope of their accepting help.
The PDI event includes an assessment of the women’s condition, and offers drug rehab for some. But these victims need more support than the city can offer, especially a safe place to live, with mentoring, life-skills training and education.
Rebecca hopes to open a “safe house” to provide long-term care that involves the church and community. In February, 2014 she applied for tax-exempt status for the Poiema Foundation. Meanwhile she’s visiting other faith-based houses—“to learn from the best.” And she continues to educate herself and others in behalf of the exploited.
Visit PoiemaFoundation.org or contact Rebecca@poiemafoundation.org or 469-757-8888. The National Human Trafficking Resource Center has a toll-free hotline for calls or texts. Call them at 1-888-373-7888 or text to BeFree (233733).
By Blue Ribbon News contributing writer Patti Richter of Heath.
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