Back when she was thirteen years old, Elisha Krauss decided she would do some good in the world. So she donated her hair—all ten inches of it—to a charity that helped kids in need. Eleven years later, she’s doing the same thing, but with an additional cause in mind: stopping the sex trade that afflicts unimaginable numbers of children around the world and in the U.S.
Human trafficking, the kidnapping and selling of girls and women as prostitutes or sex slaves, is the third biggest black-market industry in the world, according to the United Nations. (Number one is arms dealing, followed by drugs.) And the U.N. estimates that about eight million women and girls worldwide are forced into a degrading life that nets the traffickers billions of dollars annually.
The statistics are staggering. But Elisha, twenty-four, a radio producer in New York City, is battling the tide one lock of hair at a time. Through a campaign called 10 for 10K, she’s raising $1,000 for every inch of her hair. When she’s raised $10,000, she’ll give it to the group Stop Child Trafficking Now, cut off her hair and donate it to yet another charity, Locks of Love, the cause she reached out to as a teen. That organization provides hairpieces to impoverished kids who have gone bald because of illness.
So far, Elisha’s made it to $7,600. “People have given not once, but twice,” she says, and the campaign has attracted donors from as far away as Taiwan. (Want to help a Betty? Visit www.elishakrauss.com and follow @elisha on twitter.)
Says Elisha, “I’m very passionate about Stop Child Trafficking Now. There are millions of kids living in hell every single day.” Victims of trafficking are raped, imprisoned in houses and tents, and forced to perform dozens of sex acts each day. They don’t have any protection against sexually transmitted diseases, and they have no money or anything else that might help them escape.
Unlike the federal government or other anti-trafficking groups, SCTN, founded by Elisha’s pastor, Ron Lewis, and his wife Lynette, doesn’t focus on rescue operations. Instead, it’s working to fund teams of former law-enforcement officers and military veterans to go into communities both in the U.S. and abroad. There, they’ll investigate reports of child trafficking, with the goal of giving police and other agencies enough evidence to arrest the predators who run organized child-sex operations.
“We’re going after the suppliers,” Elisha says. “We want to arrest rings, not individuals. Even a handful of new convictions will become a strong deterrent.” (Asked about the controversial NBC Dateline “Predator” series, criticized by some for “entrapping” individual pedophiles, Elisha says angrily, “They were sick enough to entrap themselves.”)
The group’s strategy, she says, isn’t a “vigilante” one. “We are working hand in hand with law enforcement agencies, giving them the information they need to know. We don’t want to take over any investigation.”
Human trafficking is often seen as an international problem, with women and girls being lured from dozens of countries, including India, Thailand and the Philippines, and brought to Europe and the United States. But it is also an issue for American girls and women, Elisha says, citing the case of a Florida “house of prostitution” made up of underage girls.
American children who become enmeshed are usually from unstable or abusive family backgrounds and are singled out at malls or bus stations or even on the streets. One typical case, according to the National Council of Jewish Women, involved a pimp operating out of a West Virginia truck stop with six underage girls, at least one of them as young as twelve. Says Elisha, “Americans need to take responsibility for all this.”
Through the efforts of SCTN and her own campaign, Elisha is hoping that’s exactly what will happen, that parents and others who care about the children in their own lives will reach out to help the girls and women who have no one to stand up for them.
And she’s also hoping to cut her hair—really soon.
By Jane Farrell for BettyConfidential