CeCe Terlouw fighting to break the bondages of sex trafficked women

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For nearly 25 years CeCe Terlouw worked with young women at the Heartland Girls Ranch. Now she has started a new program in the St.Cloud area working with girls who have been sexually trafficked.

Modern Day Slavery

CeCe Terlouw fighting to break the bondages of sex trafficked women

By Jordan Almen
 

If you were confronted with slavery today, would you be aware of it? Could you tell the difference between someone who is unhappy with their job and someone who being forced to work? Slavery still exists in many forms worldwide, and a large part of that cruel industry is sex trafficking. Millions of people are trafficked around the world, but most people would probably be shocked to learn how close to home the problem is occurring.

Cynthia “CeCe” Terlouw knows just how pervasive sex trafficking is in our communities. She spent nearly 25 years in Benson working at the Heartland Girls Ranch, where she started her efforts to help trafficking victims. In 2003 Terlouw and the executive director at the time were asked to open a housing program specifically for sex trafficked teen girls, and since then it has been a safe place for girls to go and recover from their experiences.

Terlouw’s strong faith has helped her to be an anchor and a trustworthy confidant for the young women and girls that she has helped on their road to retaking their lives. It is a vital part of her life, and when she feels that God is pulling her in a certain direction, she tries to follow His lead. Eventually, with Heartland in good hands, she was led away from the Ranch.

“Through various circumstances I recognized that I was to move on and open a program for women in the St. Cloud area,” Terlouw said.

Unfortunately, sexually exploited people still face heavy stigma, despite efforts to put the blame where it belongs - on those who force them to work and those who buy these services.

When minors are trafficked, their victimization is easier for authorities and community members to accept, but adult victims are faced with more skepticism and fewer resources.

The 2011 Safe Harbor law legally protected those who had been sex trafficked and were 17 and younger, labeling them victims. “Last spring I was able to testify at a legislative hearing and see the age raised through 24 years,” said Terlouw. Though there are victims much older, freeing these young adults from paying for their pimps’ crimes was an important step forward....
 

Many paths

There are many different paths that lead to a person being sex trafficked, and whatever way it happens it is incredibly hard to getaway.

“With kids, it often looks like the boyfriend pimp,” Terlouw explained. “There are millions of homeless kids in our country and they are typically approached within 36 to 48 hours.”

Often when a community learns about someone who has been trafficked they are surprised - how could someone from such a good family be in this situation? “It’s not just like the movie Taken,” Terlouw said. “That can happen, but rarely - not as often as being groomed into the life.”

The dangerous relationship can start online or on the streets and gradually build up until the pimp has control. Peer-to-peer recruitment happens in school with the click of a phone.

Sometimes families will traffic their own children in order to make some money.

College students who try to make money quickly by stripping can quickly find themselves being trafficked. Terlouw even knows of how-to manuals that are easily available online which teach pimps how to take advantage of vulnerabilities and to groom their victims to do as they say, while also building a fear of leaving.

Many women won’t even flee if they’ve been sent across the country by their pimp because they have been so convinced that no matter where they go they will be found and they aren’t safe.

The money in the sex trafficking industry makes certain that men and women will continue to exploit their fellow humans. A pimp with three girls can expect to make $547,000 in a year - this modern-day slavery rivals gun and drug sales.

Any event that draws large numbers of men is a draw for pimps, meaning that hunting season can  turn bars into strip joints and major sports events - like the Super Bowl that will be in Minnesota in 2018 - will create a bigger draw of trafficking activity.

The market for trafficked women and girls is primarily made up by middle-aged men with wives and children. Pornography and the internet have been proven to contribute to this problem....
 

 

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Pictured: For nearly 25 years CeCe Terlouw worked with young women at the Heartland Girls Ranch. Now she has started a new program in the St.Cloud area working with girls who have been sexually trafficked.

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