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Enlisting Men in the Sex Trafficking Fight

Enlisting Men in the Sex Trafficking Fight

Tom Perez, founder of Portland nonprofit EPIK, believes men have created the problem—and better men have to stop it.

Until one Saturday morning two years ago, Tom Perez never thought that the trafficking that characterizes places like Bangkok and Amsterdam would show up in his own city.

He was at a breakfast hosted by Shared Hope International. As the anti-trafficking organization's founder, Linda Smith, began talking about the domestic problem of trafficking, Perez realized that the pristine City of Roses he'd lived in for 20 years had an unthinkable thorn. Portland, Oregon, had become a prime location for an industry that was prostituting at least 100,000 minors each year.

As Perez, 51, listened to stories of how minors were bought and sold as sex slaves, he thought of his three sisters and three daughters. "My protective nature came out," he said. "You just don't do that to a girl." When the breakfast ended, he approached Smith in the hallway. "She was trying to leave to catch a plane, but I kept saying, 'Tell me what to do. Let me in this fight.'"

Their conversation led Perez to two years of talks with Shared Hope and other Portland groups, including Door to Grace, a Christian ministry that provides safe housing , counseling, and job training to rescued girls, and the Sexual Assault Resource Center (SARC), Portland's oldest assault advocacy group, which provides physical and emotional support to victims.

Perez concluded that the biggest need was to get men to combat sex trafficking from the demand side, and to financially support organizations that were already in the trenches.

In January 2011, Perez launched EPIK ("Everyman Protecting Innocent Kids") with the ambitious but simple goal of recruiting 100,000 men in the United States—"one man for every victim"—to stand against the sex trafficking of minors.

After the 6'2" football player-turned-pastor resigned his full-time job and committed with his wife to live on her schoolteacher's income, his first question was, How do I engage in the anti-trafficking movement when my demographic is exactly the one that's creating the demand for the industry?


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Displaying 1–4 of 4 comments


February 27, 2012  3:46pm

Interesting... lot of info about what they're doing... but nowhere that *I* can find telling how to help them in the fight. I'd love to help. Pat


January 26, 2012  6:38pm

Yes, Aaron Cohen has become a hero in his own right and we can ask more non-Army men to do similar things if they are strong and trained. You go for the internet, I'll go for the school system; and one day, let's converge on media. Pete, culture is not built in a day. It may take several centuries; but, do pray.


November 08, 2011  1:22pm

I agree wholeheartedly with Cristy and I pray that Toni Perez's ministry can tackle these waves of pornography, sex-trafficking, and oversexualized culture that are reaping havoc on relationships, families and the world as a whole.


November 07, 2011  11:48am

Your efforts are surely needed and appreciated. Anything men can do to work toward stopping themselves and other men from demanding sex, the better. I agree. This whole mess is not going to go away until the men wake up and get moving. I disagree with the whole idea that men need not be on the forefront. What this society has not seen in decades are men who are heroes to children and women. That's why the women are doing this work in the first place! What better way to help heal those wounded by men than for men to sweep in and rescue them, putting the bad guys in their place and helping move the rescued to a safe place. Then the women can nurture. Where are our men? Where are our protectors? Where are our providers? Where are the leaders? Come out and be seen doing the work God has wired you to do! Stop hiding behind financial and web-based fronts. Come on out and be seen fighting the bad guys. PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE.


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