Taken from our January Human Trafficking Awareness Panel Q&A.
When we held a panel discussion on January 26, 2023, we were overwhelmed by the number of great questions our community asked. So many, in fact, that we didn’t have time to answer them all.
Since then, our team set aside the time to answer 17 of those questions, which are among the most commonly asked questions we hear.
We hope these answers will help deepen your understanding and equip you to be an active part of rethreading the lives of survivors and removing power from the systems that perpetuate human trafficking.
Your questions and answers on trafficking
1. Do ER’s have a resource list so they can refer women for help?
This is a really great question, and we are going to research this more. We know that most hospitals in our area provide their employees with human trafficking training. Doctors are also required to take training about human trafficking as part of their licensure procedure. We would like to research whether hospitals have a resource list, and if not, that is something we would like to create and provide for them.
2. As long as there are buyers, there’s a business. What is being done in law enforcement and prevention to target that side of human trafficking?
This is an important and complicated question. In reality, we will never arrest our way out of this problem. In order to reduce demand in our cities, there have to be many strategies (in addition to arrest).
Other cities have enacted an 8-step plan to reduce demand in their cities. Some of these strategies include education to the public and to men on the effect of prostitution on women, more severe punishment for buying sex, and rehabilitation for buyers.
JSO has explained to us how difficult it is to create scenarios where they can arrest buyers of sex. For example, a barrier they face in executing a sting operation is that they must have a female officer go undercover and actually have a man purchase from her. This can be dangerous and takes an emotional toll on the officer.
Recently, there have been some successful stings when JSO has made deals with buyers online who think they are coming to meet a 14-year-old. When arriving at the hotel, they are arrested on the spot, with a federal charge.
However, it takes more than sting operations to reduce the demand. To learn more, here’s a TED Talk our founder, Kristin, did on reducing the demand.
3. How do the women know about your organization? How do you get the message out to other businesses to get resources?
Women find out about our organization in many different ways. The most common way is by word of mouth. The survivors that work at Rethreaded do the hard work of healing.
Other women who are not yet free are able to see our employees heal and reclaim their lives. This gives them the strength to take steps to get help and to start the journey toward freedom.
We have had ladies who heard about us when they were in the life, and they’ve told us how much hope it gave them to simply know there was a place for them to go.
We are always taking steps to find more advocates for our employees. We do this by networking, speaking at events in the community, holding our own events, and hosting volunteer groups for individuals and businesses.
4. How do you guys help alleviate the triggers or help women deal with their triggers?
There are many things we do at Rethreaded to help women deal with their triggers. We strive to foster a trauma-informed workplace. We are very intentional with how we run meetings, handle conflict, schedule events, and communicate..
Because triggers are not always preventable, we work to ensure that Rethreaded is a safe place to navigate through them together.
We have a social worker on staff and three contracted therapists.
We make free counseling available to all our women in the program.
All of our counselors are trauma specialists and teach our employees how to handle their triggers.
We encourage healthy habits like staying hydrated, prioritizing sleep, and taking walk breaks during the day.
We start every day at Rethreaded together, with 1-2 minutes of deep breathing and an encouraging word. It creates a routine for all of us, which is great for those healing from trauma.
It works. One of our survivors learned how to identify and work through her triggers by going through trauma therapy and by working with other women who were farther along in their journey of healing.
5. Where does trafficking happen in Jacksonville?
Trafficking happens all over the city. This was confirmed by Sergeant Bill Nelson, who is over the Integrity unit at JSO. We know that it happens in most every hotel, including the downtown Hyatt and nicer hotels in Ponte Vedra.
Sergeant Nelson confirmed that JTB & I-95 and Baymeadows & I-95 are hotspots in our city. Human trafficking also increases in areas where there are large events, such as TPC, Jacksonville Jaguars games, and large conventions.
6. Do you also offer your services to male victims?
At this time, we do not offer services to male victims. To our knowledge, Jacksonville does not offer services to males specifically for human trafficking.
7. How do survivors seek help? Are they given access to cell phones? How do they know who to call?
It looks different for every survivor. During a person’s time in trafficking, some have access to phones and some do not. However, a successful call for help is highly unlikely – it is rare that a survivor will have enough time alone to make that call, and they risk potential retaliation and harm from their trafficker if they are caught.
For those who do seek or receive help, here are a few ways that happens:
- Help may be given when law enforcement intervenes. In the case of one of our employees, the FBI followed her case for four years until they were able to arrest her trafficker.
- Other women are arrested and end up in jail. For some, this can provide some space away from her situation and possible help.
- For others, it may be when they cross paths with another survivor who can give them hope to be able to leave.
8. How long after being trafficked do you offer help?
We do not work with women directly coming out of their trauma. We are in stage 2 of the care process, which means a woman needs to have a period of time in her life (usually six months) where she is clean, stable, and sober before coming to us.
We partner with a variety of different organizations, such as Gateway Community Services and Villages of Hope, who refer women to us when they are ready.
9. Does income class come into play at all?
Financial instability makes a woman vulnerable to human trafficking. For instance, traffickers may use the prospect of a better financial future as a tool to groom women into the life of trafficking.
Income class can also sometimes determine the resources women have access to, which can dictate what choices you actually have in life.
10. Do you all provide housing for women to live in as they work to Rethread their lives?
We do not provide housing to women at Rethreaded, and this remains one of our biggest needs.
However, through numerous connections in the city, we provide assistance for women to find safe and affordable housing.
11. How did the pandemic affect the volume of survivors seeking help?
The pandemic increased the amount of survivors seeking help, and it came at a time when we were in a much smaller building.
There were many unknowns, and we weren’t sure how we could afford to hire more survivors. We brought the issue to our whole staff, asking if we should hire in August of 2020 or wait until January.
Then, one of our survivors shared her experiences with how crisis situations impact trafficking. During hurricanes, for example, violence increased. With a lack of demand, traffickers take their frustrations out on the victims.
Her advice to us was, “you must hire now.” So, we did. In fact, that was our largest hiring class in our history, and the money came to provide for them!
12. Foster kids are at an increased risk for being trafficked. What percentage of survivors that you work with have been in the foster care system?
The stats tell us that children coming out of the foster care system are 60% to 80% more likely to be trafficked than those that have not experienced foster care. Currently, we do not have stats on how many of our women have been in foster care.
13. How do the employees of Rethreaded exercise self-care, so they can assist others without personally burning out?
We have a great work environment here. It is open and supportive, and there is way more joy than distress. We work side-by-side together, and sometimes we never even know a woman’s story.
With that being said, it does come with its challenges. Sometimes, the reality of our work hits hard, so we take these steps to care for ourselves:
- We have a network of counselors who offer reduced rate counseling sessions to our staff.
- We actively discuss trauma, strive to be a trauma-informed workplace.
- We teach about and model self-care and foster a healthy work environment where we can talk through these things.
14. Describe your idea/thoughts of what freedom means after your life on the streets.
We asked our two survivor leaders what this means to them and this is what they shared:
- “Freedom from the streets meant not having to wake up the next morning in tears knowing what I had to do that day in order to survive and feeling completely hopeless and broken.”
- “Freedom from the streets meant there wasn’t anyone knocking on the door at 10am the next morning telling me it was time to check out. Life out of the streets is freedom from panic and worry about what is coming next or who is outside the door. Freedom is a phone call to mom that doesn’t get rejected.”
15. When you talk about women’s criminal backgrounds, what exactly do you mean?
Often, during a woman’s time being trafficked, she is forced to participate in criminal activity as a way to shield the trafficker from blame or prosecution. Here are some real life examples.
- The trafficker may force the victim to use her own ID and credit card at places of business and hotels, preventing the trafficker from being traced to their crime.
- For one of our employees, her trafficker made her drive the getaway car while he was inside committing a robbery.
- Some traffickers make their victims commit forms of financial fraud, such as writing bad checks, so he won’t have to take the blame.
- Traffickers may use victims to transport drugs or be a middleman in his other criminal activities.
- Traffickers will also use women to sell their drugs and the victim will get a drug charge.
- Other traffickers will make their victim an accomplice to a crime by forcing them to watch as the trafficker commits violence, such as battering or punishing someone who owes them money or a woman who has disobeyed.
- More often than not, the women will at some point get arrested for prostitution.
These things can ruin our ladies’ credit and leave them burdened with criminal charges. All of these scenarios become barriers to women leaving human trafficking and starting a new life.
Becoming part of the solution
If learning more about human trafficking has inspired you to get involved, here are three of the most common questions we receive about Rethreaded and how you can help.
Our work depends on passionate volunteers and supporters who make a choice to “rethread” their time, communities, and businesses.
We are always here to answer additional questions, or to plug you into the right volunteer or giving opportunity to make a transformational impact.
Why is the organization called “Rethreaded”?
Rethreaded represents the process of taking our threads of pain, walking the path of healing, and transforming them into threads of potential.
All of us have threads in our lives that make up who we are. But for each of us, there are threads in our lives we didn’t choose–threads of pain or hurt or suffering. This hurt can come from many sources, both big and small: trauma, abuse, family dysfunction, absent parents, death of those we love, and many more.
When we look at those threads we can start to believe things that are untrue about ourselves. Many of us try to hide them, or cut them out, or pretend they aren’t there. But when we do that, we forget that these threads are still part of us. When we pretend they aren’t there, we ignore who we are and who we could be.
Instead of hiding, removing, or pretending, we say you should rethread your life, taking those threads of hurt and weave them into a new purpose that helps us reach our potential
When was Rethreaded founded?
Rethreaded officially launched in the summer of 2012. Since then, we have helped over 100 survivors rethread their lives.
How can we help?
You can help in many different ways. First, you did great by coming to our panel and educating yourself about human trafficking. Here are some other ways you can help:
- Take this one hour course about the issue of human trafficking, developed in partnership with our Attorney General Ashley Moody and the Florida Alliance to End Human Trafficking.
- Be involved in your community. People need people. Serve where your heart comes alive.
- See people. Treat everyone you meet with respect and love. You never know their story.
- Shop with purpose at Rethreaded. Simply changing where you shop has the power to literally change lives.
- Volunteer with us! Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a group volunteer date.
- Donate to Rethreaded.