RENTON, Wash. - About 250 people gathered Saturday for a gala to help fight against sex trafficking and prostitution.
For the last 10 years, the Genesis Project has worked to save the lives of girls and women who are caught up in the world of sex trafficking.
“The mass majority are women and girls that have been coerced, tricked, or some way have gotten themselves trapped into this lifestyle. Once you’re in, it’s extremely difficult to get out,” said Deputy Andy Conner with the King County Sheriff’s Office and the founder and president of the Genesis Project.
Conner started Genesis Project about 10 years ago, he says, because of what he was seeing while working law enforcement on the street.
“When a person sees a prostitute on the street and just kind of dismisses, they don’t know their story,” said Conner. “That’s what changed me. I was able to get their story, because I was standing right there with them at 2 in the morning, telling them, ‘What are you doing out here?'"
The Genesis Project relies heavily on the community’s support.
Conner says it costs about $275,000 annually to keep the Genesis Project going, offering women and girls shelter and keeping a handful of people on staff to help those women who are in need.
“I felt like I actually had support, to know that I don’t have to go back to that,” said Katie Allen.
Allen says when she was younger, she fell on hard times. Her brother died when she was 11 years old, then she got in with the wrong people. They trafficked her for years.
She says at 13, she got caught in a sting. From that point, she was connected with the Genesis Project.
It took her a few years, but now Allen is back on her feet. She is now working with the Genesis Project, helping girls dealing with the same things she did.
Conner says the Genesis Project has helped more than 300 women and girls since its inception. They shelter up to eight girls at one time at the center.
Conner says he’d like to grow the Genesis Project to have a 24-hour call line, as well as create two more shelters that would help women transition into a more stable life.
For more information on the Genesis Project click here.