End the demand
Expert on human trafficking to speak at RHM Mission House’s Conference on Saturday
By Jessie Moniz Hardy
It was one of the lowest points of Marlene Carson’s life. She sat in a corner with a green robe over her head, crying and begging God to send someone to help her. No one came, at least not at that moment.
After an unhappy home life, Ms Carson had run away as a teenager and become embroiled in prostitution, and a marriage to a violently abusive pimp.
He was so physically abusive that he once left the Nike symbol etched in her face after standing directly on her face.
When she finally did find her way out of this nightmare, she never forgot that feeling of being alone and without support.
She took this horrendous experience and turned it into something positive by starting a home for other women who wanted to escape from prostitution called Rahab’s Hideaway in Columbus, Ohio.
Her charity includes a soul food restaurant designed to raise money for Rahab’s.
Ms Carson now travels the world educating people about human trafficking, the legal name for prostitution.
She will be in Bermuda to speak at the RHM Mission House Conference on Saturday.
“I didn’t have Rahab’s,” she said. “That is what helped me to start Rahab’s Hideaway. I was helped by a minister and his wife.
“They walked me through the process of transition. It was a long process. It took me about 30 years to really talk about my story.”
The idea for Rahab’s was born in 2008 after she broke an ankle on a ministry trip in Florida.
“I had been bringing girls into my home for a long time,” she said. “When I broke my ankle I had to go back to Columbus. I was in a rehab for my ankle.
“I was having mothers call me to say pimps had their daughters in go-go bars and they were 15 years old. From my hospital bed I began to get groups of people together to do rescues.”
Unfortunately, many of the young girls she helped could not be sent home because conditions there were usually not conducive to healing.
“Every run away is not running away because the grass is greener on the other side,” she said. “Often they are running away from serious issues of abuse at home.
“The average age that young women get caught up in prostitution is 12 to 14 years old. Most of them are not runaways.
“A lot of them have cut from the foster care system. You have to see that with trafficking there is no profile for a victim or a pimp.
“There is no profile for a buyer. We have had girls who lived in $2 million homes and girls who lived in the inner city and were drug addicted. I went and rented a property to help women.”
After she rented the house she wasn’t really sure where to go from there.
She called a realtor staging association and asked if they would stage her house as a charitable venture, but they declined saying they were already doing a big name charity house.
“I prayed and two weeks later they called back and went in and staged the house,” she said. “One of the guys who came to paint asked ‘what is this house going to be’.
“He went and told his pastor and they came in with a lot of resources and support for us.”
Rahab refers not to rehabilitation, as many people mistakenly think, but to Rahab, a prostitute in the Bible in Joshua 2.
When Ms Carson uses the term ‘human trafficking’ people sometimes look at her with confusion and start talking about cars or roads.
“One of the challenges that we have is educating people on human trafficking,” she said. “I asked a women on the street ‘are you being trafficked’ and she said ‘I don’t even own a car’.
“They don’t know they are victims. I remember reading an article about Harriet Tubman.
“Someone asked her, ‘what was the greatest challenge in freeing the slaves’, and she said, ‘getting them to see that they were slaves’.
“I sometimes don’t agree that the governments of this world changed the language to say ‘human trafficking’.
“If you say ‘prostitute’ people know who you are talking about. People don’t know what a traffic victim is.”
She made a connection to RHM Mission House in Bermuda when people from the ministry went to a conference in Columbus, Ohio where she was speaking.
“We are going to come in and do a workshop on human trafficking, and talk to some folks there in Bermuda,” she said. “The people we talked to in Bermuda know the problem is very bad. I think your cab drivers know a lot about it.
“The tourists when they come in, often ask the cab drivers to take them to prostitutes. There is this whole underground world that locals are not aware of that is feeding off the cruise ships coming in.”
Rahab’s Hideaway has just merged with an organisation called Nothing Into Something Real Estate (NISRE).
Under the NISRE umbrella Rahab is helping young people caught up in prostitution from ages 12 to 17 years.
They also run Jessie’s World which is an exit programme for men, women and young boys coming out of prison. They are located in five cities in Ohio.”
They are also running a campaign called End the Demand. Unfortunately, in a prostitution arrest, the weight of the law usually come down the hardest on the prostitute not the pimp or buyer.
“The buyer or ‘John’ and the pimp gets a slap on the wrist,” she said. “That has to change. That will change with more education.”
The RHM Mission House revival is on now until July 13. Ms Carson, will speak on Saturday in the Willowbank Conference Centre in Southampton.
The Saturday conference day will run from 9am to 3pm. C Nicole Henderson will also talk about hearing God through dreams.
Registration is $60 or $80 for patrons at www.bdatix.bm, Rose’s Flower Shop and People’s Pharmacy. The other days of the conference are free and start at 6.30pm.
For more information see www.rahabshideaway.org.