Saturday, September 22, 2018

‘This is very difficult work, but we have our ears to the ground’

May 14, 2018 by  
Filed under Feature

ASKED & ANSWERED: TOSHIA SHAW

‘This is very difficult work, but we have our ears to the ground’

TOSHIA SHAW

The Purple W.I.N.G.S (“Women Inspiring Noble Girls Successfully”) organization was founded in 2010 by Toshia Shaw, MBA — an experienced human services professional with vast knowledge and experience working with at-risk youth, battered women, and abused girls.

While interning at a local runaway shelter, she noticed a staggering number of homeless and runaway girls entering the program. After extensive conversations, she noticed a pattern — a lack of communication and involvement by parents and other responsible adults in the lives of these young women.

Shaw is a survivor of human-trafficking, and her organization is on a mission to empower women and girls who have experienced emotional trauma and sexual/domestic violence, and are looking to escape the commercial sexual industry, sex trafficking, and commercial sexual exploitation. She says that more than 90% of the women and girls in her program are African-American — and she sat down with us for a conversation about Purple W.I.N.G.S. and helping victims and survivors use their personal power to reach their goals and dreams.

How many girls and young women have you serviced in Las Vegas?

We have assisted over 500 young girls and women in Las Vegas and we have a 50% success rate. This is very difficult work — but we have our ears to the ground to help those who are victim of human-trafficking and sexual abuses.

What is human trafficking?

The word is thrown around so much. But in layman’s terms, it is a serious crime that involves forced labor, sexual slavery. Human trafficking is modern-day forced slavery — and uses force, fraud, and coercion to obtain commercial sex acts with the intent to make a profit off someone’s body.

How is someone forced to do something they don’t want to do?

It is done in a variety of ways. Given today’s environment we see the majority of predators preying on young girls and women through social media. Girls who are targeted under the age of 18 are called domestic minor sex trafficking victims. These girls are being recruited by traffickers online through: Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Snapchat. We call these recruiting sex-traffickers, “Romeo pimps.” They inbox young girls and women, and try to encourage them to go out on a date and then makes them believe they want a romantic relationship and want to be their boyfriend.

What was your experience?

This is what happened to me: I went to breakfast with this guy who turned out to be a trafficker — and he held me at gunpoint, and said if I didn’t do what he said he would kill my young son and my entire family. I was scared because he knew my information. This type of sex trafficker we call a gorilla pimp, who uses force and terrorist methods to get you to do what they want you to do. People also need to be aware that young boys and some men are also victims of human trafficking — and sometimes it will be a woman who does the recruiting.

For additional information go to www.purplewings.org, email pwgirls@purplewings.org, or call (702) 608-7659. You can also view Toshia Shaw’s personal story on a TED Talk stream on Google.

 

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