The term “sex trafficking” means the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, obtaining, patronizing, or soliciting of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act. Sex trafficking occurs when someone uses force, fraud or coercion to cause a commercial sex act with an adult or causes a minor to commit a commercial sex act.
The Upstate has seen an increase in activity in recent years due to its proximity between Atlanta (#1 City) and Charlotte (Top 10). In 2017, local law enforcement charged 59 counts of human trafficking in South Carolina. Of the 59 charges, 22 involved cases with minors. 49% of these human trafficking cases were opened in Greenville County. As of December 29th, 2017, there were 72 human trafficking cases pending in the South Carolina State Courts, 37% of which are in Greenville County. Data obtained in December 2017 through the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office shows the impact human trafficking is having on individuals and in communities across South Carolina. In fact, the top five known locations of human trafficking were reported in the following counties:
1. Greenville County
2. Charleston County
3. Horry County
4. Richland County
5. Beaufort County
These statistics are grossly underrepresented as victims typically do not want to be known and local awareness, prevention, and treatment seem to lag the trafficker’s resources. In addition, technology has evolved recruitment tactics as traffickers no longer rely on in-person interactions.
Several local organizations focus on the powerful and important work of education, awareness and prevention of human trafficking in and around the Upstate of South Carolina. However, Jasmine Road will be the first and only organization in the community to provide a comprehensive and holistic residential restoration program for adult female victims. First and foremost, the program is based on the “Housing First Model” – we know that it is impossible for victims to focus on recovery without having a safe and stable living situation. Another important distinguishing factor is the opportunity to gain work experience through the social enterprise. No matter how much counseling and other services are provided, if a survivor cannot find gainful employment, it is very difficult to sustain recovery. The incorporation of extensive high quality healthcare delivered in a trauma-informed, non-judgmental compassionate environment is the third unique aspect. Thanks to our partner Bon Secours St. Francis Health System, we have been able to provide this access.
Other residential programs focus on treating addiction and domestic abuse but there is not another program in the state that addresses the specific needs of adult victims of sexual exploitation. The two-year length of stay is unique and proven effective. The trauma informed therapy is essential for addressing PTSD and a host of other issues that stem from early childhood sex abuse. In addition to participation in a 12 step program for addiction, there is a curriculum that teaches how to break free from the trauma bonding and other behaviors that must be addressed.
No. Staff will be on-site daily, but there will not be live-in staff. Thistle Farms, our model organization, has proven that such autonomy and independence are critical to the women's ownership of their own rehabilitation. Women are motivated to adhere to Jasmine Road's rules and regulations and to ensure that their housemates do the same so that their opportunities to live in and benefit from the Jasmine Road program are not compromised.
While Jasmine Road takes a long-term holistic approach to restoring each resident’s physical, emotional and spiritual health, the survivors of sexual exploitation share many common issues including childhood sex abuse, homelessness, poverty, addiction, violence and incarceration. Jasmine Road offers individualized care during the two-year program. It takes significant resources and access to many different services to provide this type of program. Our comprehensive program depends on partnerships with experts in various fields such as healthcare, drug and alcohol rehabilitation, trauma informed therapy and education.
In addition to the residential program, Jasmine Road provides case management services to women inside Greenville County Detention Center including a class on the effects of trauma. Jasmine Road also partners with Triune Mercy Center to offer programming to women who might be candidates for our program. Through these interactions our staff is able to see candidates who demonstrate suitability for the residential program. We also plan to take referrals from other community organizations, sister communities and law enforcement. All women must complete an intake process and be screened for readiness to participate.
In May 2018, 5 women were welcomed into the first home and the pilot program. Jasmine Road seeks to empower each woman to a life of sustainable health and independence which is a lofty goal. That is five women who are no longer homeless and caught in a cycle of addiction, incarceration and trafficking. Another goal is reunification with children and extended families. This has a ripple effect for future generations by breaking the cycle of addiction, incarceration and exploitation. In addition to the women we are serving in our safe home, we work with women from our community through recovery and trauma groups at Triune Mercy Center and inside Greenville County Detention Center. We expect that some of these groups will eventually be led by our survivor leaders empowering them to share the journey to healing with other women. We also plan to open additional homes once we have established a successful pilot program, developed necessary service-provider partnerships and funding. Our model allows for scalability once the initial infrastructure is established. These services can be leveraged to additional homes and their residents at a relatively low cost so the overall rehabilitation cost per resident will decrease over time. We would like to share the success of our model with other programs in the region, especially the development of the social enterprise.
It is estimated that 80-90% of prostituted women have been victims of trafficking at some point in their lives.
According to the FBI website, the average age at which girls first become victims of prostitution is 12-14. “Too often girls are criminalized for behaviors that are natural responses to trauma such as running away or self-medicating through substance abuse. In the worst cases they are being arrested and charged with prostitution despite their being victims of child sex trafficking. Many of these girls are from troubled homes or foster care placements where they have been abused or thrown away by their families. They are abducted or lured by traffickers and then routinely raped, beaten into submission, and sometimes even tattooed by their traffickers. Instead of treating these girls as victims in need of services, they are treated as perpetrators and routinely put behind bars.” Rights4Girls Website
Because the care we provide is so highly individualized, our success will not be demonstrated by large numbers of clients served. We know that to truly transform lives and help our survivors flourish we must provide holistic care and immerse them into a lifelong supportive community. Not every resident will graduate from the two-year program because there are significant challenges to overcome. We measure success by each individual milestone that is achieved, each night that is spent off the streets safe from violence, each joyful moment that is experienced, each day of sobriety, each opportunity to connect with positive role models, each step taken on a spiritual journey and each opportunity for healing through the power of love. We also measure success by tracking each resident’s goals and needs. We track services provided and measurable outcomes including meetings and groups attended, individual treatment plan outcomes, health and therapeutic care provided, and individual progression through the phases of the residential program.
Jasmine Road would not exist without the contribution of countless hours by many volunteers. The Board of Directors consists of volunteers who performed all administrative duties for the first two years, coordinated the purchase of the safe house, secured pro-bono legal work and raised a significant amount of funding through grant writing and solicitations. These volunteers also worked to understand the existing landscape of non-profits and health/employment/counseling services in Greenville to best leverage Greenville’s resources and affect the most efficient change for our target population. There is also a volunteer committee that organizes and plans our annual fundraising luncheon which is the most important source of revenue for our operations. Going forward there are many opportunities for volunteers to help secure funds, plan events, participate in the up-fit of additional safe houses, teach life skills such as cooking, meal planning, nutrition, financial literacy, art therapy and provide transportation. There are also opportunities for mentors and fitness partners. There is a large volunteer committee that is working to create the social enterprise café that will be partially staffed by volunteers.
The model for Jasmine Road is to provide transformative programming that is tailored to each individual recipient. In order to do this and still maintain a lean operating budget we have formed partnerships with services providers for different areas of care. The key to graduates maintaining long term stability is being able to find gainful and meaningful employment. Our vision for our social enterprise is that is will allow the residents, staff and volunteers to work together to create a business that is something that they will feel invested in and proud of. The café will offer many opportunities for learning social skills, culinary skills, management, marketing, accounting and customer service. The kitchen will also serve as an incubator kitchen to develop products that can be branded to sell. Innovation and entrepreneurship will be encouraged and a culture of teamwork and community will be fostered. So part of the sustainability is that the graduates will continue to work and help grow the organization and mentor new residents through survivor leadership. The other part is that the social enterprise will produce revenue that can fund some of the operations of the residential program. We also plan to continue to develop partnerships with businesses, faith organizations, foundations and individuals who want to share their resources to change lives and make our community better.
Currently, female sex workers constitute the majority of arrests related to the commercial sex industry with only 20% of arrest being pimps or male prostitutes and only 10% Johns/customers. There is a huge financial burden placed on the criminal justice system as well as social service providers due to multiple arrests and incarcerations of these women. The most comprehensive report analyzing the cost of prostitution control was conducted by the University of California in 1987 which revealed the average arrest, court and jail costs in cities across the U.S. amounted to approximately $2000 per arrestee. Inflation adjusted, that is $4289. And according to the SC Department of Corrections, it costs $54.47 per day to house a woman in the South Carolina prison system (Fiscal Year 2016). At Jasmine Road’s planned long-term capacity of 20 women, the program cost per woman per day is projected at $50, representing a significantly better community investment. Participation in the Jasmine Road program reduces recidivism, increasing future tax revenues by producing a functioning member of society and an effective role model for their children. This is borne out by Thistle Farms experience. That agency consistently demonstrates savings to the community, currently at over $700,000 annually at their current capacity of 32 women, by reducing arrest and incarceration, court restitution, and disability and child protective services costs.
The most unique thing about Jasmine Road is the community that we are building. We are showing people how to ignore normal social barriers and love women who have traditionally been overlooked by society. We are teaching our community how to see the beauty and grace in each individual and to offer hope and healing to those who have been victimized by poverty and injustice. The bonds of friendship and community are powerful and we invite you to become a part of this healing journey.
A Commercial Sex Act includes prostitution, pornography, and sexual performance done in exchange for any item of value, such as money, drugs, shelter, food, or clothes.
Source: Shared Hope International