'Restoring life in those that once felt lifeless'

January 16, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

Brittany Ross of Mission 108 discusses human trafficking prevention

 

The best thing about the work we do are the people we meet. Each one has an impactful story, but this month I am excited to tell you about our friend Brittany Ross (pictured here). You can read more about Brittany and her husband Robbie Ross Jr. here. Jeff and I had the honor of photographing their wedding in 2010. 

I decided to interview Brittany this month because January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. The Rosses founded the non profit Mission 108 in 2012 to serve people in Kentucky and several years later it grew into combatting human trafficking in India. I am excited to share the story with you and hope you consider supporting the work. In the interview below, Brittany offers some excellent insight into trafficking and prevention

Mission 108 aims to advocate for the marginalized, empower the vulnerable, partner with the willing, and focus on Human Rights for the survivors of human trafficking and the extreme poor. Visit their website for more information!

 

Abby Laub: When did you first become acutely aware of this horrific issue of human trafficking? 
Brittany Ross: In 2016 while working with a non profit in Uganda.  

 

AL: What were the steps that led you to form Mission108?
BR: I was invited to visit some partnership programs we were funding and to learn about the aftercare system in Northern India. I fell in love with a safe home that was losing its funding because of new government regulations after working so hard to get off the ground. The director of our safe home had a vision of sustainability and understood on a different level what soul care meant for the victims and survivors of sex trafficking. We created a plan to partner together and the rest is history!

 

AL: Tell me what Mission 108 is funding, and how it's helping women and children impacted by trafficking?

BR: We fully fund our safe home every year by hosting an event weekend in the Bluegrass. Funds go toward raids and rescues, a two-year rehabilitation program that includes soul care, healthcare, therapy, education, job and skills training, and the most loving nourishing environment to heal from the traumas of exploitation. Once a girl comes into our safe home, she is family. We are there for the girls emotionally, spiritually, and physically throughout life. This work is lifelong and we are in the business of creating new life where so much has been taken from them. 

We also partner with local initiates stateside that focus on prevention like working in the school system on educating students on everything from consent to healthy relationships to human trafficking awareness. It starts with the youth!

 

AL: Why did you decide to work in India?
BR: India leads the world in human trafficking according to the global slavery index. America is one of the number one contributors to trafficking across the globe. It was clear to us that Mission 108 should bridge the gap between the two countries. We believe that if India and America are hot spots for where the problem begins, then the two countries working together can also be the solution and where we see human trafficking end. Both india and America are taking great strides on a governmental level to better support survivors. We are honored to be a part of that work.

 

AL: i know a lot of people are not aware of the vast reach that traffickers have, right here in the states. It is everywhere. Can you shed some light on this?
BR: Human trafficking is in every crevice of the world because it stems from unhealed (often sexual) trauma and abuse of power from the perpetrators. 

Even if we never come in contact with a trafficker (most of us won’t) or wouldn’t be considered “at risk” for being trafficked, there are proactive ways we can help bring awareness. Most of them start in the home. Things as simple as monitoring our kids' social media (or not giving them access to it at all), and teaching consent (age appropriate) to children at a young age. As early as 2 to 3 years old (as soon as children have language) is when I like to tell parents to start teaching consent. Example: If grandpa or uncle Joe wants a hug but Suzy doesn’t want to give a hug, we don’t force it. We encourage body autonomy by saying something like “Suzy doesn’t want to give hugs right now. Maybe next time!” 

More than 90 percent of traffickers are identified as male. So we believe if men are statistically the problem, then men have a unique opportunity to become the solution. Mission 108 partners with collegiate and professional athletes (mostly men) to spread awareness and begin healthy conversations on the issue of human trafficking. It’s important to use our voices for things that matter! 
Screenshot

The Kentucky Derby is one of the top five human trafficking hot spots in the United States, behind only events like the Super Bowl. So just by simply having a basic understanding of what to look for and what to do if you suspect a human trafficking situation can save a life. 

Prevention is key in ending human trafficking. Creating and encouraging a healthy family dynamic is essential in our fight against human trafficking. Survivors attribute over 96 percent of their trauma and what led them into human trafficking to be an issue that started within the home, often beginning with sexual abuse from a caregiver. 

That means striving for healthy and trusted caregivers is something we can ALL do to ensure our children are protected. I am all about simple and organic solutions: Invite kids over after school that might not have healthy home or trusted caregivers. Ask your kids the hard questions and be open to listening to them if they are expressing an issue with caregivers, or any adult they’ve been alone with. 

We also need to advocate for better laws for victims and survivors of sexual assaults and abuse.

 

AL: I know this is on your mind every single day. How does this fight impact how you live your life? 
BR: It affects every aspect of my life. Sometimes I feel like I live in a different universe than most 30 years olds. My perspective on life because of the things I’ve seen is something I value. You can not unsee a child whose first days in our safe home are filled with fear and terror because she has never been able to trust anyone, not even her own family. You cannot unhear a conversation between a pimp and a trafficker. Those things change your perspective on a deep level. But I believe that because I’ve seen and experienced deep pain, I have more capacity for deep joy. The two go hand in hand. And I am honored to be called into this work. 

I’m acutely aware of how to protect myself and my family. I educate my friends as I learn myself. We are so busy in our everyday life that sometimes we don’t think about things unless we’ve been taught. I’m always encouraging my friends to evaluate they way we think about sleepovers because of what I know. I say that not to invite fear but to invite power. Awareness is power and the more we know, and the more we are paying attention the better we can protect our children.


AL: I know that COVID has made some of your work difficult lately. What does 2021 look like for Mission 108?
BR: We aren’t exactly sure. We are dealing with that one day at a time. A huge part of our fundraising and the beauty of being a part of Mission 108 is we love the art of gathering. We love events and gathering around tables and taking our donors to visit the safe home. That will look a little different for us this year, but our donors are some of the most generous, life giving people on the planet. I have no doubt we will rally to support our work.

 

AL: How can people get involved in the fight against human trafficking or support the work you’re doing? 
BR: We love when people donate on their birthday to support a day of the safe home. You can go on our website and make a donation. In the notes tell us your birthday or special occasion (anniversary, kids birthdays, etc). It’s a special way to give back on a day we typically get something special. 

Follow us on social media (@Mission108) and come to our in-person events when we are able to have them! We typically host a Women’s Brunch, Celebrity Golf Scramble, Silent Auction and Black & White Gala.

 

AL: Can you leave us with some of the wins Mission 108 has had? 
BR: We have rescued nearly 300 girls and seen them walk from darkness into light, from the point of rescued to graduating the program. We’ve had girls get married and have babies (a dream that never felt real to some!) and pursue their dreams and get their dream! We’ve had one girl testify against her abuser and seek justice through the ever improving laws, and we have seen the spiritual warfare shake off of traffickers who’ve committed some of the worst crimes. It feels insane to say but we are evidence of the Divine in our work daily. God is capable of restoring life in those that once felt lifeless. 

 

Thank you for reading! 
 

This last photo and the photo at top are of Brittany and Robbie from a cold winter shoot we did a few years ago on his family's farm. All other photos provided courtesy of Mission 108. 


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