Victims of Human Sex Trafficking Receive Support from Verde Valley Sanctuary

As a culture we have become desensitized to the damaging long-term effects of prostitution, pornography and human trafficking. Human trafficking is referred to as the modern slave trade. In 2016 alone, there were approximately 5,500 cases of sex trafficking that were reported in the United States, this number does not include forced labor, forced marriage, bonded labor/debt bondage, involuntary domestic servitude and child soldiering (National Human Trafficking Hotline & Polaris). These issues are not isolated to the cities, we are seeing more and more cases of Human Trafficking here in the Verde Valley.

The Verde Valley Sanctuary (V.V.S.) is a non-profit agency dedicated to providing support services to victims of domestic abuse and sexual assault. This includes victims of sex trafficking. Over the past 18 months, V.V.S. has seen an increase in the number of requests for services from victims of human trafficking at our Shelter and Outreach Centers. Meeting the needs of victims of sex trafficking is very complex and there are distinct differences between the average domestic violence client and the sex trafficked client. Human sex trafficking victims are more resistant to treatment. They frequently form bonds with their trafficker, called trauma bonds and often do not even consider themselves as victims. Most do not know what a healthy relationship looks like and need to learn how to set healthy boundaries. Victims of sex trafficking have a strong need to feel safe. Working with professional staff—who are trained on the culture of the sex trafficking—enables victims to begin the healing process. V.V.S. Victim Advocates must be able to assist clients on a daily basis who are struggling with borderline personality disorders, Dissociative Identity Disorder, hypervigilance, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and Psychogenic Nonepileptic Seizures.

As a result, V.V.S. has ramped up it’s training for it’s Victim Advocates and sent five of its staff members to a special training on human sex trafficking. “Sex Trafficking and Sex Exploitation: Understanding and Treating the Multidimensional Needs of Victims”. This sex trafficking training covered the trauma experienced by those who have been exploited for a profit. Participants learned about traumatology and the importance of effectively dealing with the rewiring of the human brain to promote healing and reduce treatment failure. Participants in the class left better equipped to understand, identify, assess and treat victims of human sex trafficking using trauma informed care methods. The training was held for three, consecutive days at the Arizona Trauma Institute located in Mesa, Arizona. Staff members: Dorothy Burr, Shannon Pippin, Evah West, Meily Rodriguez and Heather Kurowski received certification and were awarded with 18 hours of continuing education credits.

Verde Valley Sanctuary (a member of the Yavapai County sex trafficking task force) provides a variety of support services to victims of sex trafficking including access to our secure shelter. All Shelter residents must meet certain criteria prior to admittance and agree to cooperate with the case management program in place. The V.V.S. Outreach Center also offers support, including therapy, counseling and case management to victims who do not currently require shelter. The Outreach Center is essentially a shelter without walls. The V.V.S. Legal Office supports clients by empowering them to feel more prepared and confident in representing themselves in court if the occasion should arise.

The effects of human trafficking are very complex and victims need to know that there is help out there and that the Verde Valley Sanctuary is safe haven whether it is just a phone call, counseling, legal support or safe shelter, help is only a phone call away. The 24 Hour Hotline is (928) 634-2511 or 1-800-930-7233.


Article Written by:
Heather Kurowski
Therapeutic Case Manager
Verde Valley Sanctuary

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