The YWCA Greater Los Angeles is honored to feature special speaker Rachel Thomas, Sex Trafficking survivor and Founder of Sowers Education Group, at the 2014 Phenomenal Women Awards Luncheon.
Rachel has turned a horrific experience in her life into an opportunity to educate others and promote awareness of this heinous crime.
“To have survived something like Rachel has is life-changing indeed but to choose to speak out and teach others with the goal of minimizing the atrocity of sex trafficking requires a tremendous amount of courage. We applaud Rachel’s strength and are honored for her to join us at this year’s Phenomenal Women Awards Luncheon – an event designed to celebrate phenomenal women just like Rachel,” shared Faye Washington, President and CEO of the YWCA Greater Los Angeles.
To help spread awareness about the little-known type of pimp she encountered, Rachel and her husband founded a company called Sowers Education Group and coined the term ‘CEO Pimp’. To read Rachel’s survival story, see below.
“There is another side of trafficking. For years I buried my story, I was ashamed. I began to realize that no one was sharing a story like mine in the media and information regarding Sex Trafficking. I was a happy girl from a good family. I went to college. I was smart and headed on a good path. There are pimps out there with a different approach. They wear three piece suits and begin with legitimate business opportunities. Sex Trafficking is happening to women like me,” shares Rachel.
The goal of Sowers Education Group goes beyond sharing Rachel’s story and enlightening communities about the “CEO Pimp”. They work to address negative messages in media and challenge decision makers to share positive images of women and a respectful perspective of relationships. Sowers Education Group works with various law makers, youth and community groups to raise awareness of the influence of pop culture.
“Every message is like a seed that is sown – what goes in, comes out. This is why we work hard to raise awareness about the negative seeds that are often prevalent in pop music and culture when it comes to sexual violence and pimping.”
A recent accomplishment of the organization was the completion of a pilot of their 12-week curriculum entitled “Ending the Game”. This curriculum is geared toward women who are still loyal to their pimp and/or a lifestyle of commercial sexual exploitation. The positive results were encouraging as most women reported significantly decreased feelings of attachment to their pimps. In the future, Sowers Education Group plans to have a series of curricula for survivors of trafficking to help them embrace their survivorship and rebuild self-esteem and learn again how not to be coerced or manipulated.
“The YWCA has a special place in my heart. My first job when I was 16 years old was working with a YWCA program in Pasadena called ‘Just For Girls’. The YWCA believes that each woman has strength and they encourage women to see that strength and they give them a license to be bold. I’m so glad to be able to lend my voice to the current efforts of the YWCA Greater Los Angeles.”
Proceeds from this year’s Phenomenal Women Awards Luncheon will benefit YWCA Greater Los Angeles programs that address Violence against Women. Join with Rachel in supporting the YWCA Greater Los Angeles and help us fight sexual assault and trafficking.
Rachel was in her junior year at Emory University when she unknowingly met her pimp: a professional and well-spoken ‘modeling agent’. He had business cards, a portfolio of contracts with recognizable models, and connections throughout Atlanta. He groomed her with high-quality, all-expense paid photo shoots and legitimate modeling work in various music videos and magazines. He convinced her to start exotic dancing to raise revenue for her modeling career. Then, to receive payment from a video, he asked her to fill out a W4 (including her parent’s home address and SSN). Shortly after this, their relationship turned dangerous. He began forcing her to have sex with clients from the strip club and anyone else who would pay. He threatened to kill her family, kill her, open lines of credit in her name, and more. He became physically and mentally abusive. Thankfully, another of the pimp’s victims brought the case to the police. Two years later, Rachel’s pimp was sentenced to 15 years in prison. Upon his arrest, the FBI found out that this man had victimized more than 75 girls for over seven years, preying on naive college girls of all races who were away from home. To learn more about Sowers Education Group visit sowerseducationgroup.com.