Nuns a major part of fight against sex trafficking

ST. LOUIS - You might expect advocates, law enforcement and business leaders at a conference to end sex trafficking.

You might not expect 100 women from across the country who usually live among the lay people.

Nuns, from every order, including the Sisters of St. Joseph Carondelet in St. Louis, are at the Ignite National Sex Trafficking conference this week. They are the reason the conference is happening.

"They are our biggest funders, our biggest supporters, our biggest cheerleaders," Kim Ritter, the conference organizer, said.

The Sisters of St. Joseph began their work to end sex trafficking in 2008. They realized their cause was worth capital.

"Think of that purchasing power of going to a hotel with 900 sisters, suddenly people are interested in what you have to say," Ritter said.

They made a deal with the Millennium Hotel in St Louis in 2010 to end sex trafficking. They told the hotel they'd have their convention there if the hotel would train its staff on how to identify and stop sex trafficking.

"It's now the industry standard," Sister Patty Johnson said.

"People listen to the sisters, they are powerful they are educated," Ritter said.

It's not just the nuns.

A rabbi in Creve Coeur and her congregation are realizing they have power too.

They are the lead temple in St. Louis in the fight against sex trafficking.

" We will speak with our checkbooks," Rabbi Elizabeth Hersh said.

The Jewish congregation at the Temple Emanuel is helping a sex trafficking shelter called Magdalene get off the ground.

Sisters of St. Joseph across the country are now using their clout to convince congressmen and women to support a new sex trafficking bill.

Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Mo.) will introduce it next week. It will give prosecutors the power to go after sites like backpage, where you can buy and sell women and children.


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