Ginnie Graham: Day Spring Villa aids sex-trafficking victims
BY GINNIE GRAHAM World Staff Writer
Saturday, January 26, 2013
1/26/13 at 3:34 PM
This story contained an error in both the print and online editions regarding a pending legislative bill filed by Rep. Pam Peterson, R-Tulsa. This story has been corrected.
An out-of-state teenager was saved in Oklahoma City last year after she had naively accepted a trip from an older suitor years earlier.
Once at their destination, the man turned on her, forcing the girl to "earn her keep."
A homeless woman with children was offered a job cleaning motel rooms by an "employer" and became trapped in a prostitution ring.
A girl barely into her teenage years was rented out by her mother.
Sex trafficking exists in Oklahoma, and Day Spring Villa is treating its victims.
"In 2010, I would have said that doesn't happen in America, that only happens in foreign places," said Executive Director Wilma Lively. "As hard as it is to believe, it is going on in Oklahoma - the Bible belt - and we can't close our eyes to it any longer."
Oklahoma a top destination: The United States is the No. 1 destination for human sexual trafficking, with Oklahoma near the top of the most-active state list, the State Department reports.
A legislative panel and interim study last year led by Rep. Pam Peterson, R-Tulsa, detailed harrowing stories from women caught in that torturous web.
A seven-agent unit within the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control was created to investigate human trafficking.
An agent testified that girls ages 12 to 14 are recruited for prostitution by several methods, including social media. Once ensnared, the victims are not allowed to leave and have few, if any, ways of communicating with other people.
The forced sex acts take place in motels, apartments, at truck stops or in fronts for brothels - such as massage parlors.
"It's not so much a reflection of Oklahoma as much as our geographic location," Peterson said. "It's more and more of a problem, and it's an awful crime."
Among the expected legislative proposals, Peterson's House Bill 1508 seeks to expand subpoena powers as it relates to human trafficking.
"I'd love to stop the supply side of this problem," Peterson said. "But with these tools, we are saying that you can't take our kids or operate here. We'll be on top of it and catch you."
A need to help: Day Spring Villa, located west of downtown Tulsa, is the only shelter in the state certified by the Oklahoma attorney general to treat adult sex-trafficking victims.
Since April, 15 human-trafficking victims have entered the shelter, three of them with children.
"We felt as a Christian, faith-based domestic violence and sexual abuse shelter that we needed to step up and do something about this," Lively said. "As a faith community, we need to help these women and their children."
The shelter will add a 5,000-square-foot wing for treating as many as 17 sex-trafficking victims. Of the $659,000 cost, all but $97,000 has been raised through challenge grants, pledges and private donations.
The separate facility will allow staff members to offer more in-depth therapy.
"They are going to take a longer and more specialized time to heal," Lively said. "It's a different type of experience than our other clients. We're going to have to build trust and help them learn we don't want anything from them. We just want to help them."
Lively said one victim would not eat, saying she did not like to eat in front of people.
It was only in therapy that they learned that she had been trained from a young age not to eat until her quota of sexual partners had been met for the day.
"These victims have lived under the threat of being beaten and murdered day in and day out, and there is a lot of extreme post traumatic stress disorder," Lively said. "It's going to be long term."
The shelter has altered its intake questions and initial counseling to screen for victims who may come in through domestic violence or sexual abuse programs.
"They don't think people will believe them," Lively said.
Male victims: Not all victims are women.
Late last year, 13 Tulsa-area teenage boys were identified in an international sting by the Homeland Security Investigations, a division of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.
The victims and perpetrators are a mix of U.S. citizens and immigrants. Victims are moved across state and international lines often by their oppressors.
Day Spring Villa will provide treatment for male victims and will work with nonprofit groups such as the John 3:16 Mission and Youth Services of Tulsa for housing.
"It's about what a person needs physically, emotionally and spiritually when they come in," Lively said. "There will be differences in treatment because they are of a different sex or gender. But, we like to say we look at the individual to see to their needs."
Original Print Headline: Area agency gives sex trafficking victims aid
Oklahoma hotline: 800-522-SAFE
National hotline: 888-373-7888
For information on Day Spring Villa: 918-245-4075 or tulsaworld.com/dayspringvilla