Group taking sex trafficking fight to source: men

Bruce Deel, founder of Atlanta's City of Refugee meets with males of all ages to discuss the horrific nature of sex trafficking and how they can help combat it by supporting the nonprofit he's created, Men Opposing Sex Trafficking. Courtesy of MOST

Credit: Photos courtesy of MOST

Credit: Photos courtesy of MOST

Bruce Deel, founder of Atlanta's City of Refugee meets with males of all ages to discuss the horrific nature of sex trafficking and how they can help combat it by supporting the nonprofit he's created, Men Opposing Sex Trafficking. Courtesy of MOST

­­In the last 10 years, Atlanta’s City of Refuge has sheltered Charlette and more than 1,000 additional women fleeing sex trafficking.

Charlette, going by only her first name to protect her identity, had been held behind a padlocked door by her exploiter. She turned to the nonprofit after enduring threats to her son’s life.

“He knew I would do anything for my son,” she said.

Exploited women with stories like Charlette’s still turn to City of Refuge’s sister organization, House of Cherith, for housing and other resources.

But recently, the team behind City of Refuge and House of Cherith started a new nonprofit to expand their fight against sex and human trafficking through a new nonprofit.

Men Opposing Sex Trafficking (MOST) is taking a different approach than many of the organizations in Georgia and across the nation that have the same cause. This group is focusing on men, who are believed to make up 95% to 99% of all buyers of illegal sex, said Bruce Deel, president, founder, and CEO of faith-based MOST.

MOST is out to convince men of the dangers of activities such as watching pornography, which is considered a gateway to sex trafficking, Deel said.

“If we can address the demand side in a more aggressive manner, then obviously we lessen the need for recovery and for rescue opportunities,” he said.

Although Deel and others take their message to men’s church groups, Rotary Clubs, and other male-dominated groups, “our organization is not just about awareness,” he said.

MOST works with about 40 retired and ex-members of the military who have assisted a handful of police agencies around the country in confidential sex trafficking investigations, Deel said.

Gabe Franco, MOST’s chief operations officer, said MOST has worked with local law enforcement agencies eight times in the last year in cities in Georgia, California, Kansas and Ohio, and once with the FBI.

At least 50 people were rescued in these sting operations. In one recent case in California, the rescued included five girls ages 12 to 15, Franco said.

Men Opposing Sex Trafficking, a nonprofit launched at Atlanta's City of Refuge is organizing meetings with men to discuss the hazards of sex trafficking and urging them to join in the fight. Organizer Bruce Deel says 95% to 99% of the perpetrators are men. Courtesy of MOST

Credit: Photo courtesy of MOST

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Credit: Photo courtesy of MOST

Deel estimates that he has made about 50 public appearances in Georgia and across the country, trying to inform men about the magnitude of sex trafficking that goes on and the dangers it presents.

In some cases, groups that MOST members have spoken to have promised prayers and financial support. Some have even committed to starting MOST chapters of their own, Deel said.

The Rev. John Butler, lead pastor at Covenant Life Church of God in Bremen, 45 miles west of Atlanta, said his congregation heard Deel speak in January and “got heavily invested and involved pretty quickly.”

The church is going to start its own MOST chapter soon and was the second in the country to host the nonprofit’s blow-out event, “Welcome to the War,” Butler said.

The MOST event “was a life-changing night for probably 150 men from our area,” the pastor said. “I think probably the secret sauce in the event was it puts a face on the issue of trafficking and how it’s not a victimless crime, a faceless crime.”

Some in the audience confessed to what had been going on in their lives and were given the opportunity to be baptized that night, Butler said.

“They thought it was a chance to start over again — to reimagine their attitudes toward trafficking and the victims,” he said.

Butler said he was moved as well.

“It energized me all over again that this is the fight that we are called to, and we have to do everything we can to advance this fight,” he said.

His church has created a space with seven bedrooms for sex trafficking victims as a satellite of House of Cherith.

Troy Casceli heard Deel speak at Church on Fire in Harrison, Ohio, and left committed to support the nonprofit with prayer and by creating a local MOST chapter.

“If I am completely transparent, I was probably blissfully ignorant about how bad sex trafficking is in the United States,” Casceli said.

Charlette strongly believes that Deel and MOST can make a difference.

“I believe that with all my heart,” she said.

Charlette and her son escaped her exploiter and her addiction to methamphetamine two years ago.

On the night the two escaped, her exploiter had been locked up in jail, and a man broke into the house searching for something to steal. She was able to convince him to break the lock on her door.

Charlette then rushed outside to free her son, who was also sexually abused and had been forced to live in a locked shed.

She left House of Cherith last year after staff helped her reclaim her life, find a job and a place to live.

“I can’t say I am completely healed,” Charlette said.

But, she said, prayer, journaling and counseling have helped.


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