Posted by Wes Bradford on Dec 12, 2017
Cherise Charleswell, MPH, is the Development & Outreach Manager for Journey Out in Van Nuys, which she joined in 2016. Cherise has degrees in Biological Sciences and Anthropology, and a Master of Public Health, and is a Past President of the Southern California Public Health Association.

Journey Out (formerly The Mary Magdalene Project) was created by a Sunset Boulevard Presbyterian church grant in 1980, where prostituted women were working the streets outside the church. A safe haven residence was established in the San Fernando Valley to hide women from their pimps and predators for up to 6 months. These victims have been intensely manipulated and coerced, and they have difficulty returning to society. The 3 necessary steps are Survival, Hope & Freedom. (See for more information, involvement, and donations. District Governor Cozette Vergari is also promoting this effort.)

The average age of entrance into prostitution is 12-14 years old. Victims are lured and coerced in by pimps and traffickers who then control their lives and subject them to physical and emotional abuse. >50% are runaway or throwaway youth, and 85% are victims of childhood sexual molestation and incest. 84% are US citizens. They suffer from anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, and are vulnerable to homelessness, mental health problems, substance abuse, rape and domestic abuse.

Journey Out’s programs include:

Direct Street Outreach, monitoring prostitution areas in Los Angeles and handing out discrete information packets.

Drop-In Center, a safe place to discuss issues of exiting from a life of abuse, violence and poverty.

Prostitution Diversion Program (PDP) works with the LA City Attorney & Police as victim advocates.

Sex Trafficking Prevention includes "Ending The Game" (to guide victims to recovery), and "My Life, My Choice" and "Word On The Street" curricula (to educate and warn girls on the tactics used to recruit victims).