It has been nearly 40 years since Jeanet Ingalls escaped her life as a trafficked child, yet she still finds her story difficult to share. Despite having to fight back tears every time she relives her harrowing experiences, she continues to do so because she recognizes that her story “can perhaps represent the millions of children still being trafficked.”
Ingalls endured extreme sexual and physical abuse for the first seven years of her life. Her birth mother, who was a prostitute in the Philippines, began sexually trafficking Ingalls when she was just four years old. At age seven, Ingalls managed to escape when she was adopted by missionaries from Lenox, Massachusetts.
“I was lucky,” she told The Rogovoy Report in 2012. “I got out.”
She was invited to start a new life in what Ingalls describes as “one of the most beautiful and privileged areas of the United States.” Her nightmare was far from over, however, as the now 45-year-old suffers from PTSD and brain lesions that are the result of the physical abuse she endured as a child. “Trauma is a life sentence,” she told The Berkshire Eagle. “You can never recover from things like that.”
“It has become impossible for me to enjoy my life here in the Berkshires unless I do everything in my power to help those children. It is a problem that not only happens ‘there.’ It is increasingly happening in our own country,” Ingalls stated back in 2012.
Sex trafficking is not a localized issue – it is global and affects even the most beautiful and privileged areas. Ingalls founded a non-profit organization called Shout Out Loud Productions that is dedicated to raising global awareness of sex trafficking.
The original goal of the organization was to put together a documentary that would expose the sex trafficking industry, focusing primarily on the Philippines, where sex trafficking is one of the leading sources of the country’s income.
When Ingalls began sharing her story about seven years ago, the media referred to her as a “child sex worker.” Ingalls was deeply offended by the term as it suggests that she had a choice. “There is no such thing as a child prostitute,” Ingalls said. “A child cannot consent.”
The goal of Shout Out Loud shifted as Ingalls realized the need for societal education about the issue. Sex trafficking is a taboo subject in the United States and many people don’t even realize the domestic magnitude of the problem. Victims are too often misidentified as prostitutes and prosecuted when they should be receiving help.
Shout Out Loud is partnering with a number of local restaurants to launch a fundraising series called Shout Out to Dine Out. The participating restaurants have agreed to donate 20 percent of profits to the organization during certain times on select dates.
The money will be used to fund a training program led by Tina Fundt, a survivor-advocate appointed by president Barack Obama to serve on the U.S. Advisory Council on Human Trafficking, and founder of Courtney’s House, an organization that helps child sex trafficking victims. The program would be designed to train law enforcement officials and secret service organization to be able to identify signs of potential trafficking cases.
The Shout Out to Dine Out series is still going on and a schedule can be found on Shout Out Loud Productions’ website
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