As a mother and a former teacher, I have always had a passion for working with youth and families. When I first heard about sex trafficking, I found myself in denial that something like this could even be real. Ashamedly, for a while, I CHOSE to believe that it wasn’t happening in the United States… and certainly not in Central Texas where I was teaching and raising my own children.
Through further research about the realities of trafficking in my area, I couldn’t allow myself to sit idly by and pray that someone else would do something… I had to join in the fight and at least contribute in some capacity. I am now the Co-Founder and the Director of Education & Prevention with The Key2Free.
The Key2Free began in 2013 after the six original founders traveled with a team to Thessaloniki, Greece to learn about the global issue of human trafficking.The Key2Free provides tiered transition housing, education and therapeutic care for survivors of human trafficking… Services provided include: both residential & non-residential programs, professional counseling, case management, life skills classes, continuing education, mentoring and job training.
When people first hear about sex trafficking, most assume that children are abducted and then sold into the industry, when in fact traffickers are incredibly resourceful, convincing & manipulative when luring their potential victims. A victim’s heightened needs or perceived needs are not being met which causes the vulnerable to look elsewhere. By establishing a superficial relationship and using various techniques, the trafficker will gradually manipulate them into the commercial sex industry. They take time to familiarize themselves with the victim’s individual vulnerabilities such as shelter, food, attention, love, acceptance, friendship, money, etc., in order to convince the victim that those needs will be met by him/her.
There is always the hope that families could be reunified, even after something as traumatic as a child being trafficked. However, it is imperative that the circumstances and complex-compound trauma surrounding each individual case be evaluated. The recovery process is extensive and on-going. It is always beneficial for family members to seek assistance in order to best support the victim as well as provide themselves with the support that they need due to the risks of secondary trauma.
The Key2Free is currently developing a 3-tier residential program to meet the wide-variety of housing needs of the demographic we have the opportunity to serve. The ultimate goal is to work with each individual to meet quarterly benchmarks to “graduate” through each housing tier to achieve independent living readiness. Non-residential services like case management, mentoring, counseling, life skills classes, etc., are on-going services that we encourage clients to continue to pursue regardless of housing participation.
When working in this field it is easy to become overwhelmed, but the rewards far out-weigh the trials… the relationships we have the opportunity to develop with these brave women is a blessing and a privilege that we do not take lightly.