Women of Vision's Brenda Oliver speaks out against sex trafficking
Brenda Oliver’s life has changed a lot in the past 5 years. Ever since a friend’s daughter disappeared and was most likely forced into a prostitution ring, Brenda has been determined to learn all she can about human trafficking and to change her community. Part of the South Puget Sound chapter of Women of Vision, Brenda was recently on Fox’s local station Q13 where she encourages her community to join her efforts. We interviewed Brenda to learn more about her story.
WOV: How did human trafficking become a passion of yours?
Oliver: On December 21, 2007, a family friend [17 year-old Danica Childs] went missing. She has not been heard from since and evidence has led the police to determine that she was forced into prostitution.
At the time, my impression of human trafficking was that it doesn’t happen often. But I started educating myself. I read about Linda Smith, The Hole In Our Gospel, and Not For Sale. And I realized what a big problem trafficking is, not only internationally, but here, in our own backyard. In my country and in my community.
Then, it was like God was telling me “You have all this knowledge. Now you have to do something.”
WOV: How did your involvement with WA Engage begin?
Oliver: I was introduced to Karen Marion, who was employed in a local school. She and the school’s principal were aware of girls who were being trafficked out of their school. We contacted WA Engage, an organization dedicated to eliminate trafficking in the State of Washington. WA Engage is clear that legislation comes first, but the vital next step is for grassroots groups to make sure that the laws are being implemented.
So, we decided to host a gathering of our local Federal Way, WA leaders. At that first gathering, we thought we’d have to convince attendees that trafficking was a problem in our community. But over 25 people came, including the mayor and the police chief. And the overwhelming response was “We know there’s a problem; how can we help?” Out of that response, the Federal Way Coalition Against Trafficking was born.
WOV: What do you see as your primary goals in your community?
Oliver: First, we have to educate. Girls are being targeted at a younger and younger age. It is critical to educate parents about the reality of trafficking, so we work with schools, host community events and join parent meetings.
Secondly, we want to encourage law enforcement to do just that – to enforce the existing laws. As a result of our involvement, the police chief has created a 2013 Strategic Plan on how to combat human trafficking in our city. Also the mayor has proclaimed our city’s commitment to address the issue.
WOV: How is your Women of Vision South Puget Sound chapter involved?
Oliver: Our Women of Vision chapter decided to focus on our local advocacy efforts as part of our overall goal. I became the Advocacy Chair of our chapter and we seek to adopt the Coalition to make a difference in our community.
WOV: What encourages you?
Oliver: Psalm 34:4 says “I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.” This problem seems so big sometimes, but together we are making a difference.