Please join me in welcoming fellow author RJ Conte to the blog today. Her novella, The 12th Girl in Heaven, a modern retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses, releases on Amazon on June 2, and accompanies a Beauty and the Beast retelling, The Hotline Girl, released earlier this month.
RJ joins me today to talk about a subject that burdens both of our hearts: sex trafficking. I’ll let her take it from here.
Hello! I’m RJ Conte, wife to a quiet, easy-going, and brilliant engineer, and mother to two adorable toddlers.
I’ve known Lydia since we were both teenagers, and I love her writing. I’m so thankful I got this opportunity to promote a very unique novella, and subject that has become close to my heart!
And please come to the Facebook release party right from your own computer, of The 12th Girl in Heaven. There will be prizes and giveaways and more information, as well as lots of fun. You’re all invited! 🙂
To read an excerpt of the novella, click here!
To read an interview of one of the characters, Gidget Paige, click here.
For the first six months of 2015, I focused on a brand new venture: taking two fairy tales and turning them into modern adaptions, with a focus on serious psychological issues. The Hotline Girl was the first, and it was a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, set in a suicide hotline. That one was a bit more lighthearted at times, but had its very sad and serious moments, as could be expected with its setting!
This one, The 12th Girl in Heaven, is a retelling of the fairy tale, “The Twelve Dancing Princesses,” which is not as common of a fairy tale, but tends to be a favorite of younger girls due to the Barbie edition in 2006. 😛
The premise of the fable, The Twelve Dancing Princesses,, depending on the version of the story, is that twelve princesses, all daughter of the same king, wake up every morning in the one big bedroom they share, with the shoes on their feet worn out. They are exhausted all day, and can’t seem to shake their groggy sleepiness. The king is flabbergasted, and can’t seem to figure out what’s going on. He calls for any man to solve the mystery of what has happened to his daughters, but they are all unsuccessful. Every single one of the men who arrive drink something the princesses give him, and falls asleep, unable to remember the evening.
Finally a shoemaker, who has worked on the girls’ worn out shoes all this time, and is in love with the youngest princesses, is smart enough to refuse the drink. He stays awake and follows the girls down a trapdoor to a magical land where they are enchanted or drugged by a witch and dance with men all night. He reports back to the king, who saves the princesses from their life of slavery.
I read this fable and thought: it’s a trafficking story! What we have here are girls beguiled by a drug-dealer, and are then forced to provide entertainment for men.
My family and I moved to the Pacific Northwest last year. We left a conservative and homey little area of north Texas, and came to the great beauty that is the state of Washington. But, along with beauty, we realized that there was quite a mission field for saving trafficked girls out in this area. One street over from us, a drug bust that involved prostitution and a former Seattle Sonics player happened just months after we moved in. The beautiful little state park outside of our home is supposedly riddled with used needles, and we were warned not to hang out in it alone or after dark. And we live in a SAFE neighborhood near an elementary school!
Edward Sumner of R.E.S.T. (Real Escape from the Sex Trade) came to my church one Sunday and sobered the entire congregation with trafficking statistics in the Seattle area. R.E.S.T. was formed in 2009, and saves hundreds of girls each year from the life of sexual slavery and addiction to substances. They provide them with housing, give them necessities, and mentor them along with counseling. They are also out actively trying to prevent girls under 18 from hooking up with the wrong men.
Police estimate that up to 500 teens, some as young as 12 years old, are working as sex slaves in the greater Seattle area alone. Look up your city. You’d be astonished at the numbers.
In one account, a fifteen-year-old girl left a note for her parents, claiming she needed to find herself. She was found ten days later, with an entirely new wardrobe and haircut, and informed her parents she had been held hostage. Even after that, she still continued to sneak out and see her former pimps, having formed a trauma bond with her captors, who are good at beguiling girls into attaching themselves to them. Meanwhile, they charge $200-250 per sexual act, and don’t let the girls see any of the money, often times keeping them hooked on drugs.
So I knew I wanted to get involved. You don’t hear things like that and walk away. Praying was one thing, but I wanted to do more. And, if walking the streets looking for girls to help wasn’t in my best interest as a young, twenty-something mom, then writing a warning book might be, and raising money for this fantastic organization. Twenty-five percent of all proceeds on this book go straight to R.E.S.T. of Seattle, to stop sex slavery in Seattle. In this Fifty Shades of Grey culture, we need to stand up and protect women!
My book doesn’t deal with exploiting minors – its protagonist is a college girl in a sorority and part of the college party scene. It also doesn’t have any sex scenes or yucky descriptions of male pimps. Instead, I try to warn readers by talking about the scary side of clubbing, drugs, alcohol, and video prostitution without going into any detail that would make anyone over 18 uncomfortable. I wanted to get the message across without writing a rated R book. I wanted it to be an acceptable read for teens and young adults who face enormous amounts of peer pressure to put themselves in vulnerable situations. I want to encourage them to stand up for themselves and say no. The college years can be formidable, as the weight of doing well in school and making connections that will further you in your career can be coupled with the youthful desire to please, fit in, become a group, and to make friends. Sororities can be the worst places for secret hazing, peer pressure, and heavy drinking. Many sororities and schools are coming under fire recently because their former members are speaking up as to the atrocities they were forced to undergo. I’m hoping my book is something that could be given to a female, brand new high school graduate in your life.
There is also a romance, a mystery, and a crazy villain! So I hope it will entertain as well as soberly inform.
Are you an abolitionist against the modern-day slavery of women in our country? I am! Together let’s stand up and warn, protect, and stop these crimes. God bless you!
206-451-REST (7378) – R.E.S.T. trafficking hotline
Wow, what a challenge! Thanks for joining me today, RJ, and shedding some light on an old fairytale and a very serious crime. Sex trafficking is a dark practice, and statistics usually only cover reported crimes – a lot is happening that we don’t even know about!
Like RJ, I urge you to look up the statistics for your city or region. I’m from north Texas, and because of the conservative and homey reputation RJ mentioned above, it may surprise many people to learn that in 2013, “Texas ranked second in the nation with 2,236 incoming tips (calls, emails, tip forms) received by the Polaris Project’s National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) for human trafficking tips” (Texas DPS Report). Again, this is only reported crime. Maybe you think it’s not an issue in your community, but I can almost guarantee it is. Why? It’s an issue everywhere.
There are a lot of great organizations standing against sex trafficking, including the one RJ has mentioned. Please find a way to contribute! Let’s storm this stronghold with everything we’ve got!