Meet Tiffany Teate. She’s your normal 22 year old, intelligent, healthy young woman who just recently graduated from college by day, and is helping to save children from the sex slave industry by night. She is a shining example that when you want to help in any way you can, God will use you to do just that in greater ways than you can imagine. Here’s her story for our August 2012 “Modern Day Hero”.
1. Hi Tiffany, Please tell us about yourself, and the wonderful work you are doing helping others get set free from human sex trafficking.
“I am 22 years old, recently graduated from Palm Beach Atlantic University with a bachelors degree in Psychology and Dance. I was born in Florida but raised in South Carolina. Growing up in the south, I learned that women were expected to behave in a certain way. I was not kean on this but played the ‘southern belle’ game with a twist. I participated in pageants and won. I was very active in serving my community and lead several youth communities. I did this not to succomb to the wealthy white old men who ran things but to have a platform, to gain a voice. I saw many corrupt leaders at a young age and I wanted to be different. I also saw women misuse their role or platform in the community. It enraged me that there was a lack of virtue in the women that young girls were looking up to. The sacredness of a woman’s body and heart have always been something precious to me. I think that is why at 17 when I heard about young girls who were being sold for sex, enslaved, and beaten at times I fell apart. I felt too young to do anything at the time except for talking about it and telling people about human trafficking. I made a vow to myself that I would devote the rest of my life to the restoration of women who have either been involved in trafficking, sexual abuse, or have never heard they are precious and beautiful in the site of their Creator. I think that God is a God of healing and restoration- I believe with Him that it is possible for there to be an end to this multi-billion dollar industry of human trafficking.”
2. How did you get started to get involved in helping to stop human sex-trafficking?
“I met the founder of Redeem the Shadows at a human trafficking awareness convention in Palm Beach in 2010. I expressed my desire to get involved, and some ideas of how to raise awareness in the local community. (Florida is the number two state for human trafficking). I did not think to hear back from him but several months later while living in Australia, he emailed me and asked if I wanted to go on a tour of the united states raising funds for Redeem the Shadows and awareness of the Sex Trade. The majority of America had no idea then in 2010 that the issue even existed, especially that it was happening in the US. We have come a long way in the past two years. Accepting the invitation to tour would mean that I would have to turn down the offer of an Australian dance company that I had just auditioned for and that I would have to drop out of college. It was not a difficult decision to make however, God made it very clear to me that this is why I was created and he would provide the way. I returned to the states, and two months later hit the road for tour.”
3. How do you help these young people to get out of it?
“The actual rescue of the girls (and sometimes boys) has to be done by police or federal agents. However ANYONE can play a part in assisting in the rescue process by being trained to identify victims, and reporting them to the human trafficking hotline. There are obstacles in the rescue process because the pimps strip the victim of their identity both legally and psychologically. They replace their driver’s license with one that has a different name and age, or if they are imported they take their passports and create new ones. They are usually drugged and brainwashed to believe their pimp is actually looking out for them. This makes it very difficult for police to identify victims, build a case, and then have the permission to take the girls out of the pimps’ hands. The rescue process looks very different in Europe in and in Asia. Their legal processes are not as regimented but more dangerous. What’s worse is the police are sometimes the customers of the pimps. Redeem the Shadows, the nonprofit I work with, works to post the hotline help number in places where prostitution is apparent. By raising awareness in the community- it educates people to identify victims and get them to the police. We work with a rehabilitation center that is the only one of its kind in the state of Florida, specifically created to restore victims human trafficking. Wings of Shelter is the rehabilitation center that is assisting us in creating more homes for victims in Florida and hopefully in the United States. They have incredulous success with the youth that have come to their home. We believe it is because they share the love of Christ with them, which is why Redeem the Shadows has partnered with them.”
4. How do you help yourself to stay safe during the process?
“As I said before, my involvement is in the awareness and the aftermath. The rescue is executed via law enforcement. However- during tour, and awareness demonstrations- it is a daily issue to keep ourselves physically, emotionally and spiritually safe. The last- being the most difficult, as we have learned: when you are doing work for the Kingdom, the enemy will try to nastily intervene. We have also learned that while working for the Lord- we have protection and favor. When we are on tour- we hold each other accountable to stay in the Word both individually and as a team and to let our words to each other be uplifting always, never letting Satan have a foothold. During a demonstration at a shopping mall, we (the three girls on the team) wore signs around our neck that said “For Sale” and our rate per hour. We had tape around our mouths symbolizing that we had no voice, or choice in the matter. Our eye makeup was smudged and hair tangled to show we were mistreated and unkept. The reaction we received from the public was disarming. People, especially Americans- simply do not want to believe that children are sold for sex. I know it is tough to swallow but we can not ignore it. Edmund Burke was correct in saying that evil prevails when good people are silent. Some people stared and walked away, angry; Some laughed. Some said we should leave; some simply denied it was not true, and did not believe the statistics we put on the posters such as the average age of a child prostitute or that it happened in the United States. Eventually we were asked to leave by the police and when we did not move quick enough, we were chased by cops and escorted out of the premises. These instances take a toll on us-we want to fight for what is right but we want to do it in a manner that glorifies Christ. We will not break laws or be disrespectful but some people simply can not handle truth.
The founder, Noel Thomas, had the chance to go undercover at a brothel in Texas posing as a John (a buyer). What he saw was devastating, girls who could not have been 18 in a neglected state- just waiting for the next man to use her. Noel was able to gather information and contribute to a case that the police were in the process of assembling. He put himself at risk-but knew the Lord wanted him there.”
5. Do you tell them about the love of God in this process?
“Yes. There are a number of great non profit organizations that are raising awareness, as well as funds for the rescue and the rehabilitation of victims but I chose to work with Redeem the Shadows because I strongly believe that this atrocity can not be mended without the Power and Healing of Christ. As hard as it is not to want to avenge this injustice with the pimps, Redeem the Shadows also has a desire for the redemption of the Johns, and the Pimps. They are also people that are lost and loved by God- we want to share that Love of Christ with the offenders. We pray that God will prepare us for this- to soften our hearts towards them and give us opportunities to share. This was difficult at first for me. When I hear the stories of the young girls, their torment and pain- honestly my reaction is to hurt whoever caused it. The Lord is patient with me, and reminds me they are His, too.”
6. Please tell us one of the most touching stories so far you have encountered.
“As I am involved with the awareness aspect of this fight against trafficking, I use my gift of dance to share, or show rather- the story of a young girl sold into slavery. I think that God gave us the ability to dance when words are not enough. That is why I began dancing- When I met the lord, I fell in Love and he left me speechless. All I could do was dance. Redeem the Shadows created a worldwide event to raise awareness on November 11, 2011 (11.11.11). I decided to choreograph a show that told the story of a young girl tricked into the trade. It was emotionally daunting to perform, getting into the character of a girl who’s body is sold and used is difficult- I can not imagine the reality. Afterward, i had several people tell me that they had heard about the issue- but it was not until they saw the dance they realized the extent of the pain. I also had a young girl come up to me and confess she was sexually abused but wanted to help other girls who also have been abused. I was completely humbled to see a girl who had been violated react in such a loving way. I think dancing brings words to life, sometimes people have to see it to believe it.”
7. Please tell us any way that we can avoid being a victim, any advice for parents, or to find out any information.
“I once read an interview of a Pimp that shared his tactics for spotting his next girl. He would look for a young girl who stared at the ground while she walked and when he approached her to tell her she had pretty eyes. She would not look him in the eye. Essentially, he looked for a girl who lacked confidence and did not think she was worthy of attention; These are the easiest to convince that the Pimp could be something for her. I was shocked when I read this. I realized then, If we were empowering our girls with encouragement, and the love of Christ- I think a Pimp would find it difficult to find his next girl. So Parents, let your children know they are loved, and worthy of it. So when they walk- they walk tall. A helpful link to report suspicious behavior, identify, or for facts is www.stophumantrafficking.org”
8. Do you have a website or link online where we can find out more about you?