Sex trafficking is the fastest-growing business for organized crime, and San Diego is one of its hot spots. Harbor Presbyterian PCA, under the leadership of Susan Munsey, is providing compassion to victims of this injustice. ByFaith chatted with Munsey about her work with GenerateHope, the organization she helped start.
Your personal story played a big role in your desire to start an aftercare house for girls who have been trafficked. Can you share a little of your story with us?
When I was 16, my parents divorced. I felt lost and alone. During this time, I ran into a guy who did with me what is very typical for many girls: He made me believe that he wanted me to be his girlfriend. I went for it, and before I knew it, I was in the street. For me—like for many kids—it was hard to say no, since I thought it meant I would lose love. Not long afterward, I was arrested. That was my saving grace.
When did you feel called to reach out to girls in similar situations?
I was looking for a new church six years ago and came upon Harbor Presbyterian in Uptown (San Diego). They had a number of ministries to the city. One of the ministries that was just starting was an outreach to those who were in prostitution or had been trafficked. Since I was a licensed therapist, I offered to do pro bono therapy. Before I knew it, I was running the ministry!
Three years ago, we opened our first aftercare house in La Mesa. And then last year we got a big 12-bedroom house with an office, school, and transitional housing.
How does a girl get connected with GenerateHope?
Typically we get referrals from the police or from social services. [Often], there has been some sort of arrest. When a girl first comes, we get her a room and then go through the clothes closet and find her pajamas, slippers, toiletries, lotion … girly kinds of things. Most girls have nothing but the clothes on their back when they arrive. Then she’ll get started with education. We’ll help her work toward her high school diploma or, if she has a diploma, study for college prep or earn admittance into a trade school.
What we’ve found is that most of these girls have hit rock bottom. And when they hit rock bottom, they cry out to God. Many want to pray, attend church, and find out about Christ and what we have in our lives. Most pray to receive Christ.
What do these girls most need to know?
Their self-esteem is really low, and many have a very poor self-image. It’s very important for them to know that they are beautiful just as they are, that God loves them and we love them, and that they are acceptable and a precious creation of God. It’s not an easy thing.
What are ways that Christians can get involved in assisting victims of sex trafficking?
Polaris Project is a good place to start. It’s one of the leading organizations fighting global human trafficking. Folks who are interested should volunteer at a local service provider or support the organization financially. They can also pray for the girls and for those who are fighting human trafficking on a daily basis.
To learn more about GenerateHope, visit generatehope.org.