by Gordon Nary
Gordon: What universities did you attend and what degrees have you earned?
Theresa: I attended Ball State University in Indiana and received a Bachelor of Social Work. I then attended the University of Toledo and finally got my master of Counseling Education from the University of Dayton
Gordon: When did you serve as Director of Education and Training at Grace haven House and what were your primary responsibilities?
Theresa: I helped develop Grace haven when it began in 2008 and worked there for 4 years. I helped develop the program.
Gordon: What subjects did you address as Speaker at TEDx?
Theresa: I spoke at TEDx about my story of being trafficked as a teen and the work I do now for SOAP.
Gordon: What was your response when you were awarded one of the Top100 Human Trafficking and Slavery Influence Leaders.by the Assent Compliance?
Theresa: It was a huge honor to be awarded that, along with the many other awards I have received. Including the Woman of Worth by L'Oreal, the Courage Award by Ohio Governor Kaisch, and many others. It is nice to be recognized for the hard work I do and the progress Have made to heal. But the best part of the awards is that I hope it encourages others to join the movement to stop this crime.
Gordon: What were the titles of some of your presentations when you were a Professional Speaker & Lecturer at Traffickfree?
Theresa: Traffickfree is my company in which I speak, train and have published 5 books. One of them being a best seller. I speak anywhere from 2-6 times a month, all over the country, on human trafficking. One of my favorite titles is "Slavery in the land of the Free", which is also the title of one of my books. Or "helping survivors heal". Another is "Look Beneath the Surface"
Gordon: Why did you find S.O.A.P.(Save Our Adolescents from Prostitution) and provide our readers some insight into your work?
Theresa: You can see the website for more info on this. I started it because I realized there were a lot of "Theresa'" out there, left for dead or stuck in hotels and being trafficked. They don’t know its called 'Human trafficking' what is happening to them and many hotels don't know that they aren't doing this because they 'want' to! They are being forced. I also created SOAP so that normal people could help do something about trafficking. I think of it as building an Army! We have given out over 2 million bars of soap with the hotline number on it and our missing children posters have resulted in rescuing many missing and runaway teens who are being trafficked. We typically do the outreaches during big sporting events but also have chapters all across the country that continue our work on a regular basis. We are hoping to have a SOAP Chapter in each state in the next 2 years.
Gordon: You currently serve as Program Director of US Catholic Sister Against Human Trafficking. What are your primary responsibilities?
Theresa: I am in charge of the Working Groups which include Advocacy, Survivor Services and Education. We try to push for stronger laws around trafficking, help survivors on their healing path, have amazing educational webinars for the public on trafficking, hold an annual conference, speak at conferences, have a prison ministry, a book club for our members, and more.
Gordon: Where are some of the major centers for Human Trafficking?
Theresa: Atlanta is the largest city for child trafficking. Seattle/Portland is another. California, Texas, and Florida also have a large number of trafficking. But so does places like Minneapolis, Michigan, Ohio, etc. Really, it is happening in every zip code. And every day.
Gordon: What can we do individually to reduce human trafficking?
Theresa: A lot of things really. When we are talking about sex trafficking, men are the reason the is happening. It is simple things like don’t look at pornography, don’t go to strip clubs or massage parlors or buy prostitutes. Have courageous conversations with other men (and boys) about these evils and how it is NOT a victimless crime. We need to dispel myths like prostitutions the oldest profession in the world, it really is the oldest obsession of women. We need police to arrest men who are buying sex every night and judges to hand out higher penalties for this. And we need to get better at reporting this. 40% of trafficking is done by families! Professionals, parents and neighbors need to do a better job knowing the signs and what to do when they see this. As for labor trafficking, Americans need to be better consumers and not buy the cheapest thing, but see where our items come from and research if it was an ethical company or not. Slave labor is still rampant, largely due to our buying habits.
Gordon: Thank you for an insightful and helpful interview.