In honor of January’s National Human Trafficking Awareness Month, StyleBlueprint raises awareness by profiling women who are tackling this problem directly. Rising from her own background of abuse, Amelia Quinn found healing through her faith, crediting her relationship with Christ as her key to freedom from her past. Amelia felt the deep impact of community support as she regained balance in her life, and now uses her strength to empower others who are struggling. Through that personal mission, Amelia established BeLoved Atlanta to restore dignity and purpose to the lives of women recovering from sexual exploitation and abuse. Amelia was named by Georgia Center for Nonprofits as one of their 2014 30 Under 30 and was lauded as A Young Influencer 2013 by Catalyst Leader. Today, Amelia tells us more.
Why is Atlanta such a huge market for human trafficking and sexual exploitation?
With a diverse population, an international airport and a high volume of both business and sporting events, Atlanta has become a hub for trafficking. As soon as I mention the airport, people automatically picture this as only an international issue, but it’s happening right here in the United States. Over the past three years, BeLoved Atlanta has only worked with domestic cases, of which the majority were from Georgia.
How are women lured into this life?
Ninety-five percent of women in prostitution have been sexually abused as children, teaching them at a young age that they are only valued through sex. Their abusers are often close family and friends; they’re targeted by pimps when they seek to escape, some as young as 11 to 14 years old.
Who perpetuates the cycle? Who are the top “customers?”
Most of the local “demand” comes from north of Atlanta in the suburbs.
I believe our entire culture perpetuates this cycle in many ways, and that often our everyday actions feed into the sex industry. Many of those working in porn have been trafficked, yet addiction to pornography is rampant in our society. Although 1 in 4 women have been sexually abused, one of the many root issues leading to trafficking, we’re still reluctant to address that issue head-on because it makes us “uncomfortable.” Our community has made major strides toward bringing an end to commercial sexual exploitation, and we are thankful to be a part of seeing lives restored.
Are there things we should look for or be aware of?
Being aware of the issue is the first step — including the root causes, such as sexual abuse, broken families, addiction and pornography. We actually share a list of ways to spot a victim of sexual exploitation or trafficking on our website. If you suspect a problem, report it to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, Polaris Project, at (888) 373-7888. If it is a local woman who is 18 or older and trying to leave the life of prostitution or exploitation, she can call the 24/7 rescue hotline at Out of Darkness (404) 941-6024, and Out of Darkness will arrange to rescue the woman at a safe location and take her to temporary housing.
How does BeLoved Atlanta help exploited women?
We believe that God has created every person with value, and we strive to help women overcome the barriers of sexual exploitation by restoring this value through Christ. We believe that a person realizes their value most when they are empowered to make changes on their own. Our team provides the resources and support for a woman to “rescue herself”— connecting her to programs such as housing assistance, drug and alcohol rehabilitation, individual counseling, group therapy, life skills classes, case management, education and employment guidance.
What drove you to start BeLoved?
I visited a friend in Costa Rica, Anna Carroll, who started LightForce International there to provide outreach for those living in prostitution, which is legal in Costa Rica. During some outreach time with their staff, I talked to a woman working the street corner, handed her a simple cup of coffee and saw her react to my expecting nothing in return. Her entire world consisted of transactional interactions. Someone stopping to care for her without a “cost” changed her life. At that moment, I fell in love with this work. I moved to Atlanta and started researching the needs here, hearing over and over that Atlanta needed more long-term homes and programming for sexually exploited adult women.
We live in a world that wants quick answers, but quick answers do not exist when talking about restoration from abuse, exploitation or addiction. You must have a selfless community that understands what this journey involves; that it will take years to overcome and that it won’t be pretty or easy. I have that community, and I want these women to have that same opportunity.
Tell us how to help … what are some of your greatest needs?
BeLoved provides the only long-term residential home in the city for women over 18 years old who have been commercially sexually exploited. We only have four beds, which have been consistently full over the past year. The need here in Atlanta is great, and our goal is to open a larger home that can house eight residents. We need our community’s help to make this a reality; we need support, resources and volunteers. We need the community to speak up and rally around the women of our city seeking freedom.
If you could chat with your teenage self, what would you tell her?
You don’t need to know all the answers or have your plans all figured out. I stressed so much about what the future would hold and what I should be doing with my life. Trust the Lord. He will reveal His plans to you at the perfect time, and it will be better than you can ever imagine.
Who have been your greatest mentors and what advice do you cling to most?
I had an incredible mentor through high school and college … Neisha showed me what it looked like to be in love with Jesus. She showed me my own value and potential. I can still hear her talking about the big ways Jesus was going to use me, and somewhere along the way of healing from abuse and pain, I began to believe her and find confidence. My friend Anna Carroll, the founder of LightForce International in Costa Rica, has poured time and belief into BeLoved and in me. She does an amazing job of making sure I don’t feel alone in this work, which has been a struggle for me.
This is a highly emotional and stressful calling you’ve embraced. How do you unwind?
If you can’t already tell, I love community. If I am surrounded by a group of my favorite people, and I am happy doing just about anything. I also love a night in with a good book or Netflix series.
What special splurges do you allow yourself?
Traveling. I absolutely love to travel. This past summer, I was able to step away from work and backpack across Italy. Travel helps me clear my head and dream about the future while learning from history and other cultures.
What are some of your favorite restaurants around town?
- Victory Bar — You can’t beat a Jack & Coke Slushie while playing ping pong.
- Antico — It’s my little slice (literally) of Italy in Atlanta.
- And my favorite lunch spot is Nick’s Food To Go.
Name three things you just cannot live without other than faith, family and friends.
My cat, Piper, S’mores ice cream and Netflix. (Is it concerning that my favorite things sound like good advice after a breakup?)
Amelia, your work empowers ALL of us to reach out to one another in hope. Thank you for your commitment. Learn more about BeLoved Atlanta online at belovedatlanta.org.
And thank you to Catrina Maxwell of CatMax Photography for the beautiful pictures.