Young Victims Remain Hidden in Pandemic’s Shadow | GFA World Special Report #1
WILLS POINT, TX — GFA World (Gospel for Asia) founded by K.P. Yohannan, whose heart to love and help the poor has inspired numerous charities like GFA World Canada, to serve the deprived and downcast worldwide, issued this first part of a Special Report update on girls facing decreased opportunity and increased violence, the young victims who remain hidden in the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In April 2020, most people around the globe were adjusting to life at home as governments instituted lockdown orders intended to curb the spread of COVID-19. To many, the limitations on normal activities, travel and socializing felt confining.
But for 22-year-old Alexis Martin, April 2020 meant a taste of freedom after more than six years in prison — and before that, sex trafficking.
In an article for The Washington Post, Jessica Contrera shares how Alexis ended up in prison. By age 15, Alexis had experienced so many of the most horrific things that can happen to a girl — sexual abuse, rape, a miscarriage and sex trafficking. Her trafficker, Angelo Kerney, didn’t allow her to attend school and beat her when she threatened to run away. In Alexis’ desperation to escape, she became involved in a robbery plot that ended in the murder of Kerney. The teenage girl was then tried as an adult and sentenced to decades in prison.
Then, in April 2020, the Ohio governor commuted Alexis’ sentence, allowing her to go free with parole. Even with this taste of freedom, she continues to face challenges, such as finding a job, due to the trauma she faced as a teenager and the black mark of a prison sentence.
Alexis’ story is one of many showing how the abuse and exploitation of girls can have devastating consequences. Her story happened in America, a country where girls typically have many freedoms and opportunities that girls in developing nations do not. And Alexis’ story happened before a pandemic that caused far-reaching social and economic impacts for the entire world.
In some places, such as the United States, the availability of COVID-19 vaccines and the easing of many restrictions have made the virus seem more distant. Yet lurking in its shadow is a crisis threatening the safety and health of girls. As social isolation and poverty have increased, girls have potentially become the most under-recognized victim group of the pandemic.
Globally, the pandemic has threatened girls’ education, increased their risk for the kind of abuse and trafficking that devastated Alexis’ teenage years, and made them more vulnerable to child marriage and teen pregnancy. While statistics from 2021 regarding girls’ well-being remain to be counted, in spring 2020 non-profit organizations were already predicting that the pandemic’s economic strain on families and the shutting down of schools would negatively impact the health, education, safety and general well-being of girls if communities didn’t prioritize giving girls needed attention, care and education.
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