Midnight phone calls, sting operations, and cooperating with witness protection are all the norm for Debra Rush. To speak with Rush is to become inspired to take up action against human trafficking.
Rush is the Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Breaking the Chains, a nonprofit organization that works with local, state, and federal law-enforcement agencies to provide rescue, relocation, restorative, and residential services to female victims of human trafficking.
“Many of these girls come from foster care or homes where they had no solid relationships.”
Human Trafficking is Happening All Around Us
Her stories are equal parts frightening and heartening, but her message is always the same, domestic violence and human trafficking is happening all around us.
“Human nature tells us that we need relationships in our lives,” Rush said. “Many of these girls come from foster care or homes where they had no solid relationships. They have serious trauma, abandonment issues, and detachment problems.”
Rush said that human need for relationships is what pimps prey on.
“The problem comes when the pimp takes on another girl,” Rush said. “Then the first girl stops getting as much attention, and she gets frustrated and tries to leave. That’s when the pimp starts beating her and threatening to kill her if she leaves.”
Rescuer is a Trafficking Survivor Herself
Often women are not ready or willing to testify against their attacker.
Rush knows how the human trafficking world operates because she herself is a survivor of human trafficking. When she rescues a girl from one of these situations, she knows all too well what they have endured, and she also knows that many of them are hesitant to speak out against their attacker.
Prosecution of the pimp is the key to ending the cycle of abuse, Rush said. But often women are not ready or willing to testify against their attacker.
“We advocate for the victims, but we also try to get them to cooperate with law enforcement,” Rush said. “We know it’s painful because you have to relive the trauma, but it is so healing to put an end to it and know that you are insuring this pimp is never able to do this to another girl.”