My husband Jay recently had the privilege of interviewing Jamie Walton, Founder and President of The Wayne Foundation. It is a U.S. based organization whose mission is to provide victims of commercial sexual exploitation and domestic trafficking with a means of leaving the sex industry for good. Here is what Jamie had to say about her important work.
So tell us your story…what was the journey that brought you to becoming an abolitionist?
I would say that I came to be an activist because I am a survivor of domestic minor sexual trafficking, and I have successfully managed my recovery. At the age of 14 I was transported monthly from Florida to Atlanta, GA for the purposes of commercial sex. Lucky for me, I was able to break away from that situation and go on to become a fairly successful woman with a very bright future. I would like nothing more than to spend my life imparting what I have learned on my journey with others.
What’s the Wayne Foundation all about? Why the name?
The Wayne Foundation was founded because I believe that victims should have a safe place to rehabilitate after encountering something as horrific as sexual trafficking. The trauma these people face is similar to that of a solider returning home from war.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is common among DMST (Domestic Minor Sexual Trafficking) victims. Without a safe environment that provides high quality mental health care and education assistance, sexual trafficking victims risk becoming re-victimized. With TWF I hope to eventually raise enough funds to provide such a place for victims.
While slowly working towards our brick and mortar goal, TWF also works to raise awareness of sexual trafficking with the public. I give lectures and presentations about the issue of DMST, as well as explaining my own experiences as a survivor.
This past year I have also started working directly with Sen Daylin Leach of PA to pass legislation that would post the national human trafficking resource center hotline throughout the state. (1-888-3737-888). I have sent a letter to the PA Assembly addressing the issue of human trafficking, and urging them to pass the proposed bill immediately. This past week I went to Pittsburgh to meet with several senators to ask for their support. We believe that this effort was greatly successful.
The name actually came from our co-founder and vice present, Kevin Smith. Those who are familiar with Kevin will know that he is very fond of Batman and of Wayne Gretzky. Our charity name ‘The Wayne Foundation’ I think it’s a mash up of his two heroes.
Is there project that you’re working on right now?
While in PA last week trying to convince the local politicians to pass our legislation, we also held a fundraiser with two of the stars from AMC’s Comic Book Men, Ming Chen and Michael Zapcic. They both ran in the Run For Your Lives event, all in the name of The Wayne Foundation. It was a ton of fun! Everyone seemed to have a very good time. The totals for the fundraiser have not come in at the time of my response, but I believe we did very well. This money will go towards our brick and mortar goal of purchasing a building to house our rehabilitation facility.
In addition, at the end of the month I will be speaking at the Mental Health America of Montana annual conference. The focus of this lecture will be about my experiences with childhood trauma, and what tools I needed to overcome recurring issues in my adult life. I defer my speaking fees to The Wayne Foundation itself, so this too will get us even closer to our fundraising goals.
How can people get involved?
I think spreading awareness of DMST in the United States is of the utmost importance. We cannot find a solution to the problem until our citizens are aware the issue exists, right in our own backyards. I encourage anyone interested in the issue of human trafficking to take a look at the following resources:
- 2012 US State Dept Trafficking in Persons Report
- The National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) Polaris Project
- Free Human Trafficking Online Course
Anyone can spread awareness, any time. Share it on social media accounts, start a conversation with friends, add the NHTRC tip line to your contact list, get involved with local charities, or support legislation in your state that helps strengthen anti-human trafficking laws. Fighting for this cause does not have to cost money; caring and compassion have infinite value.
As mentioned earlier in the interview, I will be appearing at the Mental Health America of Montana annual conference. This lecture will focus on childhood trauma and its effect on adult development, Sept 28, 2012 8:30- 9:45 AM. For more information please visit their website.
Currently, Bill 338 is being considered Pennsylvania Senate. This potential law would post the National Human Trafficking Resource Center tip line throughout the state, in full public view. I would encourage anyone, especially Pennsylvania residents, to support the passage of this bill during the next session. For more information please visit Daylin Leach’s website.
What’s the one question you wish people would ask you?
I’m not sure I really have one. I am an open book, so most people just ask what is on their mind. If I were to actually ‘wish’ I would say, ‘Where do we send this grant for $500,000?’ Now THAT is wishful thinking, if I do say so myself.
Jamie, thank you so much for sharing your heart, your vision, and your insight with us. We wish you all the best with your important work! For those of you who want to donate to this cause, you can do so here! And don’t forget to take a gander through The Wayne Foundation website, and follow them on twitter at @TheWayneFDN and @JamieWalton.