Tony Anderson shares office space downtown in The Livery with a few friends and fellow entrepreneurs.
Sandwiched between The Kentucky Theater and Barney Miller's, you wouldn't know the space — which is carved out of an old brick building that backs up to Water Street — existed unless you knew exactly what you were looking for.
Anderson runs Unearthed, the nonprofit he founded in 2008 there. The ministry came into existence to tackle an issue with similar qualities, something you might not see unless you were explicitly looking for it: sex trafficking.
Anderson recently talked about the heart behind his ministry and why Lexington is the place it's growing.
Question: How did you get involved with the issue of sex trafficking?
Answer: In 2008, my college roommate and I started working on a film that was centered on human trafficking called Baht, that was about a girl who was trafficked from Cambodia to Thailand. We were both blown away by it because at this time, human trafficking wasn't really the "sexy" thing yet, to be honest with you, so we said, "why don't we dig deeper into this. There's got to be a way to track why this is happening." A couple of years later I heard the Lord say, "I want you to go after the hearts of men." It could not just be about rescuing victims, but we had to rescue men who were causing the demand.
Q: Talk to me about the vision of Unearthed. What are you trying to accomplish?
A: We knew (when we started) that men, ultimately, drive the demand for sex trafficking. We have a friend named Jacob, whose story is on our website, who is a former trafficker, and he really helped us understand how trafficking operated from a financial standpoint.
He told us how, as girls were being forced into the sex industry, pornographers would sell photos and videos from the horrific break-in process, and the profits from the pornography were being used to buy more girls. We decided we needed to create a tool for men that helps them understand how they perpetuate the demand, and what is the way out of it, because no one has answered that question. When you get the men in this battle, you get everyone.
Q: How does Unearthed do that, on a practical level?
A: There's two things we are currently working on; one is a film called The Hearts of Men that will be like a scalpel, slicing the infection open. It will create awareness about the demand side of trafficking but also show a way out. The other is an app that will be a constant stream of encouraging resources for men who are really wanting to really kill this, so instead of pulling up pornography or something on their iPhone or computer, they can go to this app and get something better, which is truth. We want to release both in 2014.
Q: You're from Florida and went to school in Missouri, so why try to start this movement in Lexington?
A: What really drew us here is that lots of people really resonated with the idea of loving people in the sex industry, and wanting to make a systemic change in the demand level, and we didn't see that anywhere else. People were unbelievably generous. But what kept us here was a small team of people that were willing to sink their teeth into this and sustain it. Lexington also has a synergy to it right now; it's becoming an epicenter of change. We'll plant here. We'll stay here.
Q: This weekend Lexington hosts two games of the NCAA men's college basketball tournament. Some argue that large sporting events like this increase sex trafficking in the hosting city. Thoughts?
A: Sure. Any time you have a large group of men congregating in one place, you're going to have a greater opportunity for sex trafficking because of the demand. Traffickers know this, the police know this, but it's such an elusive crime to track.
Q: How aware do you think the average person is about trafficking?
A: Most people are completely uneducated. I have the most awkward conversations with strangers all the time, because most people don't want to process it at that level. They don't want to look at it for what it is, they don't want to face reality, and I don't blame them. Human injustice is not pretty, they don't want to admit that it's here.
Q: What is the single best thing any person can do to prevent sex trafficking?
A: Men, stop consuming pornography, because it is rewiring men to short-circuit intimacy and expect that sex is something they can buy. For more info on that, I suggest people check out Wired for Intimacy by Bill Struthers or a study done by South African Dr. Albu Van Eeden on the chemical effects of porn on the male brain. Women, go to the victims, go to the people who are hurt, use your scars as a lighthouse to other people.
Hometown: Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Graduated from: Ozark Christian College in Joplin, Mo., with a degree in biblical literature.
Worships at: Southland Christian Church
Favorite place to eat in Lexington: Saul Good
Fun fact: Used to have a pet rooster
You can find out more about Anderson and Unearthed at Unearthedpictures.com
Molly Phillips is a free-lance writer. She can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @mollykphillips.