An Interview With the Genesis Project

What is the Genesis Project? A brief history of the Genesis Project.

The Genesis Project (GP) exists to offer hope for a new life to young women leaving commercial sexual exploitation. We are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit founded by SeaTac police officer Andy Conner in 2011. To date we have served over 200 women and girls who are trying to leave the life of commercial sexual exploitation (CSE) and human trafficking.

What does your organization do in the Seattle area?

We are located in SeaTac, and have a physical drop-in center where women can come to us if they are looking to leave the life of CSE.

How does the Genesis Project help the people they come in contact with?

GP has case managers who go through an initial intake process with new clients. To become a client, a woman needs to have the desire to leave CSE. We actively try to help them do so through a 3 step process: Rescue, Rehabilitation, and Release.

Phase 1: Rescue – Immediate Shelter

Teens and women arrive at our drop-in center for immediate safety and to have their basic needs met. This includes food, hygiene, clothing, and a safe place to rest. Currently we are open as much as our finances allow. However, our goal is to be open 24/7 so every young woman who wants help, receives help.

Once immediate needs have been met, most victims of sex trafficking start to realize the difference between where their life was headed, and how far in the opposition direction it can go now. With love and care from staff and volunteers, dreams and goals about the future begin to rekindle within their minds and hearts. This leads to the second phase.

Phase 2: Restoration – Education and Rehabilitation Center

We offer a daytime facility that provides ongoing counseling, job and life skills classes, transportation to medical appointments and court, and access to educational programs such as GED completion. Revived hopes and dreams begin turning into reality, and former victims realize they can live a better life.

But sometimes it’s hard to change. Sometimes, even though it was full of trauma and despair, the old life can lure them back. Eventually, for those who need long-term help, The Genesis Project hopes to offer a third wing to our program.

Phase 3: Release – Safe Houses

These homes will provide long term housing for counseling and rehabilitation programs, away from the areas where most prostitution activity takes place. This will be for young women who will do anything to escape their old lives. In the meantime, for those who need it now, we are meeting this need by referring them to other organizations that partner with us.

Eventually, we hope to have our own safe houses from which we will release them into the community to live the liberated lives they were meant to live. Sex trafficking victims are not just hurt physically, but emotionally, spiritually, and socially. In time though, all of these injuries can be repaired, and that is our hope for every girl who comes through our doors.

What professions do you find have the most victims of Human Trafficking?

For most of our clients, they are not coming from a profession. Generally, they have been in “the life” from a young age and this has been their main source of income. Those who work in “gentleman’s clubs” and massage parlors with illegal practices could be listed as at higher risk.

Where/How does the Genesis Project find victims of human trafficking?

For safety purposes, we don’t do outreach. Many of our clients hear about GP from police officers, or from other clients (word of mouth).

How does your organization influence policies in Seattle?

GP is supported by a number of elected officials. One who speaks on our behalf frequently is WA State representative Tina Orwall. By staying in contact with elected officials, we can show them the needs of our clients, and those still working on the streets. They then are able to influence policy in Olympia.

How closely does the Genesis Project work with law enforcement and government?

Because we are founded by a police officer, resources can be presented to our clients directly, giving them the choice to change their lives. Often, when they are arrested for prostitution, the cycle is compounded because they are not given the support they need to get out of the life. Many local police officers support GP.

Your organization receives donations; where do your proceeds go? Who do they help? What does your proceed money do?

Our funds are all given by private donors and individuals, we receive no funding from the government. The funds go toward keeping the drop-in center open and available for women to come to for resources. These resources include:

Food

Clothing & Laundry

Hygiene & Shower

Emergency Shelter

Case Management

Lay Counseling

Legal Support

Transportation to Appointments & Court Dates

Job & Life Skill Classes

Licensed Mental Health Counseling

GED Completion Program

Resource & Legal Referral

Community Service Fulfillment Opportunities & More.

A complete list of our financials and their allocations can be found on our website www.genesisnow.org

Where do most of the human trafficking victims come from?

Our clients have come from various places throughout the U.S. However, the majority of the women we work with are from the King County area.

What can the community do to help bring awareness to human trafficking in Seattle?

Find a local organization that is actively helping these people and serve, whether it’s with your time as a volunteer or financially. Many people know that trafficking is a problem now, but they don’t know what they can do about it. It is happening in our community, the best way to raise awareness is to tell others about organizations that are making a difference. We know that there is a problem, but knowing about the problem isn’t enough. There are ways to help as well!

What can be done to help prevent human trafficking?

I’m consulting our case managers on this one so you can have an answer specific to our area- i’ll get back to you as soon as I receive a reply!

What does the government and law enforcement do about human trafficking?

Over the past decade many laws have been passed in Washington State to help protect the victim, rather than criminalize them. In fact, Washington State was one of the leaders in passing legislation regarding human trafficking in the nation. Law enforcement has also adopted many (mandatory) programs to try and rehabilitate “johns” or, the buyers of sex who have been caught and convicted.  

 

How do the victims get treated after being rescued? Are they deported? Are they given visas if they want them?

Not all victims of human trafficking are foreign. In fact, the majority of the women we serve are from our area. After being rescued, GP uses all of it’s resources to help set a woman up for success. Many times, it’s as simple as helping her acquire a driver’s license, clothing for job interviews, transportation to medical appointments and job interviews, support to get clean and sober if necessary, and of course, immediate safety from any dangerous situations she may be in.

How did your values and beliefs change after interacting with human trafficking victims?

The first time I personally interacted with trafficking victims was not in Seattle, but in Mumbai India in the redlight district. As an American, I had always thought about going to foreign countries and helping to rescue women out of these situations. While walking through the redlight district, I realized how naive I had been, and that the solution was not simple.The women working in the brothels were arm’s reach from me and I couldn’t do anything to help them. Human trafficking is defined as someone being detained and transported without their consent for monetary gain through sexual exploitation…roughly speaking. What I learned in India stayed with me as I continued my work to fight human trafficking for the next 10 years…The most important takeaway was this: to really help a woman out of trafficking and CSE, she has to be ready to leave. Even then, because of fear, manipulation and threats, many women want to leave but can’t. Sometimes it takes years for a law enforcement officer, social worker, or in our case, case managers to build trust with a client before she is ready to take the next step to leave “the life”. It can be a long process, and it involves a lot of healing for the client.

 

Lindsey Weaver

GP Marketing and Fundraising Director

www.genesisnow.org

 

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