The following was written with Mother’s Day in mind.
Every mother everywhere is someone’s daughter.
In 2020, there were nearly 17,000 victims of trafficking in the United States. Almost two-thirds of them, mostly children, were specifically targeted and recruited for sex. Worldwide, more than one million children are trafficked for the sex trade each year.
Sex trafficking is a very real problem in today’s world; an issue that most people would probably prefer not to talk about. However, this is the one they need talk, because everyone’s child is at risk.
There are many organizations and government agencies in our country currently engaged in the fight against sex trafficking, with the intention of bringing those responsible to justice.
There are also organizations invested in the recovery and rehabilitation of victims. Gigi’s home, located on eight acres somewhere in Clayton County, Georgia, is one of them.
In the state of Georgia alone:
- The average age at which a girl is sold for sex is 14.
- A hundred girls are sold 10 to 12 times a day.
- One in four girls will be sexually exploited before the age of 18.
- 7,200 men pay monthly for underage sex
Sabrina Crawford is the founder and president of Gigi House, named after her six grandchildren. Several years ago, while working with various non-profit organizations dealing with human trafficking, Sabrina prayed for guidance. She says it was “a thing of God” when the Holy Spirit said she should open her own home. So she set to work researching how to do just that, and in 2016, the Gigi’s House Foundation was created. From the first planning stages to the development, the whole process took three years. During this time, Sabrina continued to work full time, as she still does today. (It should be mentioned that her work at Gigi’s House is completely voluntary.) In late 2017, the first 10-bedroom house was built.
Gigi’s House’s mission is to create a culture of safety for girls aged 13-19 who are victims of sex trafficking to come to healing at their own pace. A safe home in a religious and loving environment is provided and includes trauma-informed individual and group therapy with a licensed therapist, home schooling (a school will soon be added to the eight-acre campus, as well as a second 10 -bedroom and plans for two more afterward), mentorship, life skills and daily activities designed to build self-confidence. Additionally, girls are trained in practical and emotional life skills so they can function as healthy adults and build the future they deserve.
Gigi’s House welcomed its first resident in May 2018. Now, nearly four years later, 100 young women have walked through their doors and graduated, ‘graduating’ being the term used when girls are deemed ready to ‘resign ” from the program. and come out on their own. This decision is made either by a judge or by the Family and Children’s Services Division case manager supervising a particular resident.
However, Sabrina is not doing it alone. Gigi’s House has a staff of 20 full-time employees and the support of a 12-member Board of Directors, all of whom are volunteers. The facility is staffed 24 hours a day, with all employees working 12-hour shifts. The majority of residents are from Georgia, hailing from across the state. Several residents came from as far away as New York and Jamaica. Sabrina wants it known that Gigi’s home extends far beyond the counties south of Atlanta. (It should be noted that there are only three other licensed facilities like this in Georgia.) The girls travel to Gigi’s House through law enforcement, DFCS, and the parents of the girls themselves, many of whom learned about it via the Internet. or simply by word of mouth.
Each girl has a case manager as well as access to a therapist who comes on site. The girls receive an education, take independent living classes, and receive instruction from community partners on how to write a resume, dress for success, and navigate a job interview. Each girl has a room to herself, and collectively they participate in various recreational activities such as bowling, skating, and their favorite shopping (they all receive a weekly allowance for such excursions). They go to church on Sundays and enjoy three meals a day, seven days a week – not to mention the snacks!
But what, you might ask, led the girls to Gigi’s house in the first place? That comes next, but there’s a caveat: this is the part you’re not going to like.
(Note: While none of the names are real, their stories definitely are.)
Abby arrived at Gigi’s house hating God. She was beaten so badly by her trafficker that even her parents didn’t recognize her. Abby’s mother was so afraid that her trafficker would return to inflict more damage that she had her daughter flown to Atlanta from New York to become a resident. After two years at Gigi’s House, Abby returned home, earned her GED, and is now attending cosmetology school. Before graduating, she even got baptized.
Bess arrived at Gigi’s house also hating God. A 16-year-old classmate, a ‘recruiter’ in the Henry County school system, became her ‘best friend’ – and then turned her over to a trafficker, who then cornered her in a warehouse in Atlanta filled with soiled mattresses lying wall to wall. It was there that she was sold and raped, often up to 10 to 15 times a night. She was beaten and starved. Her trafficker – formerly her “boyfriend” – was playing Russian roulette brandishing a loaded gun simply to instill fear and exercise control. He handcuffed Bess to a radiator, pumped her with drugs, and denied her food. He left her for dead, but by the grace of God she was found, rushed to hospital, and then taken home to recover from her trauma. In time, she arrived at Gigi’s House, graduated, and is now enrolled in college.
Abby and Bess have one more thing in common, something they share with all the other girls who walk through the front door of Gigi’s House: they’re all someone’s daughter.
Gigi’s House exists with an annual budget of $700,000 that comes from state funding as well as fundraising efforts and campaigns. The money mainly covers the costs of staff salaries, insurance and food. The biggest fundraiser is their annual golf tournament on a golf course somewhere in the Atlanta area.
Of course, donations are always welcome. The biggest contributors to Gigi’s House have been Community Bible Church – in Stockbridge and Senoia, Relevant Church in Locust Grove, First Baptist Church in Jonesboro, Glen Haven Baptist Church in McDonough, and Bubba and Cindy Cathy of Chick- -A wire through the National Christian Foundation. (You are always welcome to be added to the list!)
Volunteers are also welcome – in various fields:
- Life skills coach, in activities such as cooking, sewing, arts, crafts, pottery, painting, dancing, financial planning, budgeting, building credit and buying a house or a car.
- Mentor, individual meeting with residents to help them in their overall transformation.
- Career mentor, one-on-one meeting with residents to teach workplace skills.
- Administrative, staff assistance for classification, races and organization.
- Attendant, assisting with outings and special events, assisting house managers and supervising residents inside and/or outside the house.
- Maintenance, both around the house and on the property.
- Provide a meal: homemade, to take away, you can either drop it off or stay to eat!
People can donate money or volunteer their time to Gigi’s House through their website:
If you would like Sabrina to present information about Gigi’s House to your organization or group, you can also find what you need there. She is always ready to help.
Sabrina also appreciates your prayers for their continued success. “Gigi’s House needs a community behind them,” she says. She is also quick to add this about the girls who graduated: “I’m so proud of how far we’ve come and how hard everyone has worked.”
As for the graduates themselves, here’s what some of them had to say about their experience at Gigi’s House:
- “Gigi’s House showed me how to accept love and that my past will never define me.”
- “Without Gigi’s House, I would still be on the streets.”
- “I was finally able to feel what it was like to be loved.”
- “If it hadn’t been for Gigi’s house, I think I would have died.”
As for Sabrina, she offers her thoughts on the girls who graduated:
“I’m so proud of how far we’ve come and how hard everyone has worked.”
In the name of an entire community: Sabrina, you have certainly should be.
Scott Ludwig lives, runs and writes in Senoia. Her latest book, SOUTHERN COMFORT is her second collection of 101 columns. His first, SOUTHERN CHARM, and all of his other books can be found on his author page on Amazon. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org