KATY MAGAZINE NEWS
December 10, 2019
By Natalie Cook Clark
21-year-old Courtney Litvak of Katy hopes her experience as a sex-trafficking victim can help other young people. As the Childproof America Ambassador, she has taken her fight against human trafficking to the White House.
Photo: Andrea Hanks, White House Photographer.
After a year of "grooming" from various people, Courtney Litvak, a Cinco Ranch High School student, left her Katy home. At 18-years-old, she started a life in human trafficking that lasted two years. Now, saved and back home, Courtney works to raise awareness and end this epidemic affecting students around the country, and right here in Katy.
Cinco Ranch Student Survived Sex-Trafficking
Courtney Litvak, now 21, grew up in Katy in a loving home. She went to church every Sunday and competed on a local swim team. But at 18, she willingly left her home to enter a life in human-trafficking.
"I was groomed by multiple people over the period of a year," says Courtney. "This is such a subtle process that it's easy not to notice." She pointed out that social media is often a major form of communication and makes such crimes difficult to track.
Victims Lose All Control
"They (victims) don't understand what will be their reality when they lose control," explains Courtney. She felt she was targeted when she was vulnerable after experiencing a traumatic event.
"I was assaulted and I became a changed person," says Courtney. "You should not go through a loss and then become a target."
Childproof America Supports Families, Educates Communities
In 2017, Courtney's mother, Kelly Litvak founded Childproof America, a non-profit organization aimed at educating families and communities about the warning signs that can ultimately save children from becoming victims of this growing trend in our country.
"It's key for people to understand this issue," says Kelly. "Every household in Katy needs to be informed about human trafficking. Denial is a coping mechanism and it's difficult for parents to comprehend. Child and sex should never go into the same sentence. It's because of this mindset that this is a threat to Katy. These people are counting on families to be naive and it makes us sitting ducks."
Photo: Florencia Photography
In addition to her duties as spokesperson, Courtney meets informally with teens and young adults going through the grooming process or trafficking.
"A parent will reach out to Childproof America and we talk for about an hour on what they have found and are going through," explains Kelly. "Then Courtney is filled in and if the youth is willing, she will sit down with them and can help in key activities."
These meetings are very effective. Since becoming the Childproof America spokesperson this past August Courtney has spoken to about 10 students, 3 of whom were boys. Currently, Courtney and Kelly say that these sessions are seen as being 100 percent successful in getting these young people out of a harmful and dangerous situation. However, they stress that these cases will be followed up on.
"You can't help someone who doesn't want to be helped," says Courtney.
Katy-Based Childproof America Averages 2-3 Calls a Week
Since Childproof America is Katy-based and many in Katy know the Litvak's story about 80 percent of their calls come from Katy residents. They average 2-3 calls a week but it comes in waves. Recently Childproof America worked with the Children's Assessment Center to host a Childproof America emergency safety seminar when calls reached a sudden increase.
"We started receiving so many calls that we felt something was going on," says Kelly.
This is Not the Student's Fault
"I wish someone would have looked at me and said I get it," says Courtney. "I wanted to be validated and heard, just listened to. We need to do better at recognizing these groups and knowing this doesn't happen over night and this is not the person's fault."
When Courtney was trafficked, the city of Katy and Houston community accepted that she chose this.
"That is not true," says Courtney.
Courtney describes the people involved with human trafficking as master manipulators.
"Everything is in their control," explains Courtney. "All of your decisions are theirs. You're a commodity, a property."
According to the University of Texas, more than 79,000 children are being trafficked for sex in Texas alone.
"I've never seen so much coverage especially on social media," says Courtney. "It's really a combination of more awareness being brought to it and such organizations are growing. It (human trafficking) is continuing to get more sophisticated and growing."
Interest from the White House
A major initiative launched by Childproof America is the education and outreach initiatives, specifically Family Guides, which is exclusive to their group. Family Guides is inspired by parents of victims and is designed to meet the need of families in crisis. During a time of stress and fear, families need a trained advocate who knows how to navigate the issue quickly to help. Families with minor children and 18+ are matched with a compassionate advocate who can assist with critical questions in a quick and effective fashion. It's this program that has really piqued the interest of officials in our nation's capital.
Success in D.C.
Just before Thanksgiving, Courtney and her mother were invited to meet with Ivanka Trump, advisor to the President. In that meeting, they discussed how the current administration could help fight against human trafficking.
"Ivanka was amazing and a champion for this cause," says Kelly. "We were prepared to present our mission in a short time."
The Litvaks say that Ivanka was interested and has followed up since their initial meeting.
"We're going back to D.C. in January," says Kelly. "We developed a true trust and Ivanka's administration has asked up for our opinions on top leaders on this topic."
Putting Everything into Perspective
"What we're doing really didn't sink in until I was there (meeting Ivanka)," says Courtney. "It was really emotional, which is hard for me to be vulnerable. Our trip to D.C. put everything into perspective. I'm repurposing the pain and it's the beginning of something great."
"There are so many areas where people are suffering," says Courtney. "No matter where the suffering is, I hope to help and use my platform to establish relationships with leaders to get the ball rolling."
A Passion for other Areas
Courtney is passionate with other areas of service that she hopes one day to be able to work with her connections to make a difference.
"I'd love to help the homeless," says Courtney. "Growing up in Katy I could never wrap my head around it. I've seen the gap and want to help."
Local Schools Need to Open Doors to Expert Training
Childproof America is working with local schools and groups to help spread their education initiative and educate people on this difficult subject.
"We have been talking to Fort Bend ISD and now they are organizing a massive training for everyone from students, parents, and teachers," says Kelly. "Every school district needs to swing open their doors to experts to train people on this subject. Schools need to get over the mindset that if they have training, people will think that they are having a problem. We need to empower the community."
Faith Brought Her Back
Courtney credits her faith in God for giving her the strength to stop putting harmful substances in her body and to breakthrough the brain washing to get help and leave that lifestyle.
"I'm not the first person this has happened to and I won't be the last," says Courtney. "I always want to continue to be very raw and very genuine on this subject. I'm not putting a time stamp on my service. I will always put my full heart into it but what that will look like I don't know."
Human Trafficking is in Katy and Doesn't Discriminate
It is important to note that human trafficking doesn't discriminate. It can happen to anyone, and according to Childproof America, this activity is happening in Katy and Katy schools, like it's happening all over.
"I always want to acknowledge that everyone who's been through this does not need to talk or help others," says Courtney. "It is extremely difficult and it's a lifelong recovery."
Learn more about Childproof America at their website.