By Shawn McMullen
Most of us think of human trafficking as the buying and selling of children or young women in third world countries. While that’s true in many parts of the world, the face of human trafficking in America is much different. My daughter Kelsey volunteers with Scarlet Hope in Louisville, Kentucky, a ministry to women in the adult entertainment industry. Recently Kelsey interviewed Scarlet Hope’s founder and director, Rachelle Starr.
How did the ministry of Scarlet Hope begin?
About six years ago God laid a call on my heart to reach women in the adult entertainment industry. In 2008 three other women and I went into our first strip club to reach the dancers. We told the club owner we wanted to do something kind and loving for the dancers because Jesus calls us to. We started serving about 30 women and God has kept growing it. Now we reach a few hundred every week.
Who does Scarlet Hope try to reach?
We minister primarily in strip clubs so we reach a lot of dancers and bartenders. But we try to help any woman in the industry, whether a stripper, a prostitute, or a porn actress.
What does a typical night look like for a Scarlet Hope outreach volunteer?
We go into about 17 clubs each week to feed and love the dancers. The meals we provide might be the only hot meals some of these women get all week. We love, listen, and pray with them. We end our nights with a time of debriefing and prayer for the women we have met and ministered to that night.
What resources do you offer women who want to break away from the industry?
We try to help with anything they need: food, clothing, interview outfits, counseling, transportation, career coaching, art therapy, weekly Bible studies, job searches, and safe living situations. Recently we launched a five-month discipleship transitional program for women coming out of the industry to help them learn life skills, job skills, and how to live God-centered lives.
What are some of your future plans for the ministry?
We’re also working in Tennessee and praying about other Scarlet Hope ministries around the country. Right now there are 500,000 sex industry workers in the United States and perhaps 50 or 60 ministries serving them that have begun in the last three years. That’s a pretty small ratio.
How can people help who may not be able to volunteer?
Anyone can join our prayer team. Those in other cities who can’t help locally have held bake sales and other fundraisers on our behalf. Another way to help is by being an advocate for these women and by fostering awareness of this cause among churches, friends, and small groups.
What’s one thing you want people to know about the work of Scarlet Hope?
People think that because strippers “choose” this lifestyle they’re not being trafficked; but no little girl grows up wanting to be a stripper. Eighty-five percent of women in the sex industry were sexually abused as children. This isn’t exactly a choice; it’s all these women know because of abuse and exploitation. This isn’t a young girl in Thailand who is sold by her family; it’s a girl who’s desperately in love with an abusive boyfriend who tells her if she doesn’t bring home $200 tonight, he’ll beat her. That’s what sex trafficking in America looks like.
For more information about Scarlet Hope or to join their prayer team, visit www.scarlethope.org.