Three years ago, when Mike McDonnel and I founded the Lake of the Ozarks Stop Human Trafficking Coalition, our immediate goal was to raise awareness about human trafficking. From the beginning, we wanted the coalition to include people of all faiths and beliefs so we could attack this evil together.
Through meetings each month for the coalition we have provided speakers, including survivors, to educate us about human trafficking. We have held events to help hotel and motel personnel recognize trafficking, and we have spoken to numerous local organizations, as well as at The Diocese of West Missouri’s Annual Gathering, and to state and federal meetings. We have met with young people to teach them how to protect themselves and their friends. We have shown films and discussed the trafficking depicted. It has been very gratifying to see our membership grow and become so involved in spreading the word about human trafficking.
Now, however, with the help of a very able Board of Directors, we feel that while we will continue to raise awareness, we are ready to pursue the other part of the dream we had at our founding: to develop a safe house for women who have been trafficked. Our vision is to provide an extended-stay safe house where women who have been terribly traumatized and are having a particularly hard time putting their lives back together, could heal and face the world again.
This will call for an extended program of one to two years during which time the victim can feel welcome and safe while rebuilding confidence in herself. A safe house would establish an emotionally safe environment, develop trustworthiness, restore choice and control so that the victim could believe in her ability to solve problems, support the development of coping mechanisms, facilitate connection with others, build strength, and allow her to respond to different situations and types of people.
The safe house we envision would be welcoming and appropriate to the special needs of trauma survivors. All aspects of the program would be responsive to the deeply-seated effects of trauma.
At the outset, 4-6 women would be a part of the extended program. After several years it might extend to 10. This year we will begin to look at possible answers to housing and begin training members who wish to work with victims, as well as begin to raise the considerable sums of money that will make this possible. With God’s help, the help of our able board, members, and the generosity of the people of the lake area, we hope to open our extended-stay safe house within the next two-three years.
To donate to the safe house, please visit our website.