After three women heard about human sex trafficking 12 years ago, they decided they were going to make a difference. Since then, the nonprofit faith-based organization the trio founded has helped more than 6,600 human trafficking survivors find freedom and a new path in life.
Founded in 2011, the Florida and Midwest-based Selah Freedom works to end sex trafficking and bring freedom to the exploited through five programs, including Awareness, Prevention, Outreach, Residential, and Consulting.
According to the organization’s website, 87% of survivor graduates of its Residential & Outreach Programs do not return to “the life.”
One of the organization’s founders, Laurie Swink had heard stories about trafficking victims and realized they needed a safe place to recover, according to The Christian Post. (CP)
The nonprofit operates two safe locations for survivors, the outlet reported. One is considered a short-term campus, where survivors stay for six to nine weeks before they are given the option to transfer to the organization’s long-term campus.
Some who complete the program actually end up joining the team, like Gabrielle Triplett who serves as a volunteer advocate. She told Bay News 9, “They believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself, so much that now I believe in myself.”
According to the outlet, the cost of Selah Freedom’s program is $100,000 a year per person.
Selah Freedom partners with other groups in the U.S., including the National Trafficking Shelter Alliance. Even though the majority of the group’s work is government-funded, it also raises capital through fundraising efforts and private donations.
For example, Tim Ballard, the former U.S. government agent on whom the movie Sound of Freedom was based, will be the guest speaker at an event called Light the Path: Ending Trafficking from North to South sponsored by Selah Freedom on Oct. 25 in Tampa, Florida.
Selah Freedom also works with police departments to help connect with trafficking survivors, the CP reported.
“If there’s a prostitution sting, we’ll go out with them on the sting,” Efaw told the outlet. “Often, that’s where survivors are found. We go into the jails weekly and have jail groups, and anybody who has been arrested for prostitution, we meet with.”
“Sometimes we get survivors that have been arrested for prostitution, and then later, after working with them, they’ll admit that they were being trafficked,” she said. “They’re often very afraid to admit it.”
Efaw told CP that Selah offers counseling services to survivors ranging from trauma therapy to regular mental healthcare that deals with treating complex emotions, like anger. Counselors also guide the survivors on how to build healthy relationships.
“And then we have group therapy, too, which is helpful,” the executive director said. “We also have a spiritual counselor if they want to focus on their relationship with God, or they are just looking to explore that area.”
The organization helps people of all faiths, Efaw said, so attending church is not forced on anyone.
Regarding the more secular survivors the organization has helped, Efaw told CP, “They need someone that loves them, is not judging them. And we just try to show God’s love through our work.”