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Teens Take on Trafficking

May 23, 2011

When Alexis La Benz found out that the average age for a girl to enter into prostitution was 13 years old, she was shocked.

“I don’t even really remember being 13, and I’m only 17. It seems so long ago, and it is just so young,” she said.

Alexis working on her website.

Alexis and three fellow Girl Scouts decided to begin talking about human trafficking, and the sexual exploitation that so often accompanies it, to groups of teens in their area. They started a group that they call GS GEMS – Girl Scout Girls Empowering and Mentoring with Support – in an effort to spread awareness.

“We go around and give presentations to other teens, adults, even kids sometimes. We talk about human trafficking and educate people about how to protect themselves and others,” said Alexis.

In addition, Alexis decided to make human trafficking the topic of her Gold Award project. She created a website because she found that there were not many centralized locations online that were aggregating good information about the issue.

“It’s a cliché, but knowledge really is power. The absolute best way to get involved is to envelop yourself in your issue,” she said. “In the end you’re going to help someone even if you don’t know it.”

She focuses her efforts on teens because she thinks that it is important for people to hear about issues from their peers, and because human trafficking directly affects younger people.

“Kids are in school for seven hours a day listening to adults. Maybe sometimes we start to tune them out,” she said. “Once teens see someone who is kind of like them talking about something like this, I think they are more willing to listen. We’ve been surprised about how much respect and how much attention we’ve gotten.”

The attention and award have been welcome, but this is a project that Alexis intends to continue for other reasons. She and the other GS GEMS are hoping to create curriculum that can be provided to other Girl Scout councils, and she intends to keep her website updated.

“Just knowing that there are so many people who don’t have a voice, and seeing how sad that is, makes me feel like it is my duty to be their voice. If I’m able to help one person, then this has all been worth it,” she said.