Lakeridge grad's One Dream helps victims of sex trafficking

by: SUBMITTED - Jes Richardson looks on the bright side of life. "If you’re already having sex, why wouldn’t you want to get paid for it?”

Jes Richardson was only 17. The questioner was a man she did not know well, a regular at her restaurant job who told Richardson he loved her. When she met him, she was already a survivor of rape — a case of sexual assault that began when Richardson was barely a preschooler.

So she said yes.

Richardson shared her story earlier this month at the launch party of One Dream, a nonprofit cofounded by Kate Kelly, a 1998 Lakeridge High School graduate.

During her speech, Richardson said the cycle of abuse anticipated her decision years in advance.

“I wasn’t healthy. I had been prepared for that moment since I was 4 years old. Everyone in my entire life had told me: All you are good for is sex,” she said.

From the moment she agreed to his proposition, Richardson was moved constantly from city to city, performing sexual acts with men 15 to 30 times a day. Over the next 15 months, her rights and personal freedoms were slowly stripped away by the criminal who enslaved her.

When she finally escaped, she was an 18-year-old with no money, no prospects and seemingly no future. Ultimately, she continued to work as a prostitute for three more years before seeking help.

That was 1996. Today, Richardson is the mother of six, a successful businesswoman — and a survivor. At the inaugural celebration of One Dream, an anti-trafficking organization, more than 200 people listened to Richardson speak. Sex trafficking, or sexual slavery, is the transportation and coercion of unwilling participants to perform sexual acts.

The event featured a gallery of survivor art and a video of support made by 20 celebrities, including comedian Andy Dick, actor Mario Lopez and Candyland, a popular dubstep music group.

Kelly, who contacted and coordinated celebrities for the video, said Richardson’s speech reminded her of Lake Oswego classmates and teenage friends who endured abuse. by: SUBMITTED - Kate Kelly interacts with a telegenic squirrel.

“In hindsight, there are so many things that I would have handled differently if we were given the tools to support and help (survivors of abuse) as children,” Kelly said.

Kelly, a freelance talent supervisor who works in the Los Angeles area, said Hollywood’s depiction of sex trafficking as an exotic, faraway problem isn’t realistic.

“A lot of people, when they hear of trafficking, think that it’s only in Cambodia, it’s only in the Philippines,” Kelly said.

She paused. “It happens in Oregon.”

According to One Dream’s website, more than 300,000 children are at risk for sexual exploitation in the United States each year. Worldwide, an estimated 27 million people live in conditions of coerced labor, domestic servitude or forced prostitution.

In part, this misconception regarding the prevalence of sex trafficking is what One Dream hopes to change. But Richardson, who sits on the One Dream board of directors, believes raising awareness is only the initial step.

Richardson also wants to rework the way treatment and rehabilitation services are offered to former sex workers, a process charity organizations refer to as aftercare.

“Every survivor has a different set of needs. ... (Yet) we say, ‘Oh, you all have the same abuse, so we’re going to give you all the same healing.’ It doesn’t work,” Richardson said.

Instead, One Dream wants to provide customizable treatment options to those who escape sex trafficking by acting as a liaison between survivors and pre-existing services. These services, which range from basic life skills and medical care to counseling and empowerment, will be offered on an individualized basis.

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