Friday, August 10, 2012

Beauty Will Rise - Baytown Sun Write up

Food star gives voice to human trafficking

Font Size:
Default font size
Larger font size
Posted: Friday, August 10, 2012 12:00 am

A local celebrity is using her fame, and the earnings that her celebrity status has provided, to give a voice to those who can’t speak for themselves.
Dorothy Strouhal, who has made regular appearances on the hit TV show “Great Day Houston” following a successful run on the Food Network’s “Worse Cooks In America,” is putting her money where her mouth is when it comes to reaching out to America’s lost children.

Strouhal, a commercially successful make-up artist before venturing to the other side of the camera, started a charity called “Beauty Will Rise,” which helps local facilities that take in children who have been victimized by human traffickers.
“It’s an epidemic out there,” Strouhal said. “The level of human trafficking that is going on in the Houston and eastern Harris County area is beyond what anyone could be lieve.”
Strou hal said her involvement came when she was in a courthouse a few months ago, and she saw a child she found out was an underage prostitute.
“It broke my heart, because I knew she didn’t choose that for herself,” Strouhal said. “God just put that little girl in my heart, and I started to find out just how bad the problem was.”
The problem was worse than she could imagine.
The 13th Amendment, passed in 1865, was meant to abolish slavery in the United States forever. But the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children estimates that between 100,000 and 300,000 American children are enslaved in the nefarious world of human trafficking each year. They are used as sex slaves and often raped multiple times a day by adults who are willing to pay generously to have sex with a child.
Strouhal said on average, these victims are only 12 to 13 years of age, and those involved in the sexual exploitation of children are sophisticated criminals who have found a lucrative business in this heinous crime.
Thanks to the Internet, business is booming.
A quick search on Craigslist and found several sites in the Houston and Baytown area, and one in Anahuac, that used code words such as “kiddie play,” indicating young children might be available.
Sadly, there are few resources to help America’s own children who have fallen victim.
Federal grants are primarily directed to international victims or adult victims of human trafficking. And the majority of state child welfare systems do not allocate funds to programs for children caught in the sex trade.
Strouhal calls them the ‘lost children.”
“Some victims end up in youth detention centers, others are placed in temporary shelters or sent home, which is usually not a good thing,” Strouhal said. “Others get a second chance, and go to places like Freedom Place.”
Freedom Place is a state licensed rehabilitation center that works specifically with under aged American girls, ages 10-17 that are recovered from sex trafficking. Freedom place has a contract with the Houston court systems that any girls brought in charged with prostitution have the option of facing trial of prostitution, or going to Freedom Place.
For most, it’s a no brainer. Sadly, according to records of the Houston court system, some choose to fact trial, and many find themselves back on the street, in the hands of the same traffickers that lured them into prostitution.
Strouhal’s charity focuses on bringing awareness, funds and supplies to the facilities that work with these children.
“It costs about $300 a day per bed to run Freedom Place,” Strouhal said. “Our goal is to help meet their needs, with cash donations, products and services that help these children know there is a better life for them, and that there are people who love them and want to give them a second chance on life.”
Strouhal said there are a few facilities in the area that help recovered children, but Freedom Place offers so much with so little.
“They provide daily individual therapy, equestrian therapy, physical activities and on-location services like medical and dental treatment,” Strouhal said. “Because they’re licensed by the state, they also have to have a psychologist on staff. This is a safe haven for these girls, and it is the only licensed facility by the Department of Family Protective Services in the state of Texas.”
Strouhal is planning a large fundraiser in September, and hopes to bring members of industry and business together to help her charity provide Freedom Place with items for the girls they serve, especially hygienic products that take a large part of the facilities budget.
“My goal is to help provide them with the basic needs, and get the word out to folks that these children are out there,” Strouhal said. “I can’t go home and look at my own 14 or 17-year-old daughters anymore without thinking how blessed I am with them, and how hard those girls out there have had it. They’re in my heart now. I just want to help put them back together.”