In our 2007 report on sex trafficking markets around the world, DEMAND, sex tourism was identified as the major driving force for sex trafficking in Jamaica. Five years later, as we visit our partners in Negril, Jamaica we see not much has changed. Young girls receiving residential services at our partner’s safe house came to Negril from all over the island. The reason: Negril is a major tourist destination and it is believed to be a place where Jamaicans can make money. Unfortunately, traffickers and facilitators also go Negril to make money, by exploiting young girls and boys through the commercial sex trade.
Although some aspects of the commercial sex trade are different in Jamaica compared to the U.S., many are the same. The trauma these young girls have been through presents itself in similar ways, and our partners must invest time and resources to provide them with spiritual and clinical counseling, life skills, and a safe home.
Our partners in Jamaica work hard to provide youth in Negril with vocational skills so they are employable, and less vulnerable to the demand for commercial sex in this beautiful city. Our partners built a relationship with local law enforcement and educate officials on sex trafficking and the resources available to trafficked youth. Whether a child is a resident at the safe house or a student in the vocational program, vulnerable young men and women have access to a staff counselor who is equipped to address the challenges the youth are facing and educate them about the dangers of sex trafficking.
Since the beginning of our partnership in Jamaica, we’ve heard horrific stories of abuse that the young girls in the program have faced. Yet, we cling to hope. Singing and dancing in church on Sunday, worshipping with the residents of the safe house, and listening to their plans for the future in a life free from trafficking, was a joyful reminder of the difference Shared Hope and our supporters are making as we restore the lives of women and girls around the world.