Emotional intimidation, degradation, subtle or overt threats, and violent psychological control are part of the equation for keeping people in a trafficked situation.
The U.S. Department of Justice defines human trafficking and provides more information about the crime and associated problems at justice.gov/humantrafficking.
Striving to provide a “community where love heals, restores and empowers women impacted by human trafficking,” an ecumenical group of people in Colorado Springs came together in 2018 with a desire to build a literal residence and provide “restorative residential services” for women transitioning from human trafficking. That group included Benedictine and Franciscan Sisters, lay women and female survivors of sex trafficking, according to the Bakhita Mountain Home website, bakhitamountainhome.org.
Sister Rose Ann Barmann of the Sisters of Benet Hill Monastery said that since 2014, when Benet Hill began offering programs on trafficking, those involved have gone through a process of study, growing awareness and consciousness-raising, and became informed about the issue. Subsequently, several started asking what happened to survivors after they escaped. Finding that the answer was often that they had nowhere to go, the women and others started working toward a solution.
Today, three years later, on the eve of a newly renovated house that is ready to open to its first five residents this fall, the group is hosting a fundraising Walk for Survivors, beginning at 9 a.m. Aug. 7 at Mount Saint Francis, 2650 Parish View (80919).
“It’s expensive to run these homes,” Barmann said. “We’re fundraising. We will need to partner with businesses.”
Bakhita Mountain Home, located in an undisclosed residential location in Colorado Springs, and is named after a woman in the Catholic church whose life went from “slave to saint.” Josephine Bakhita (not her given name, and that is part of the story) was kidnapped as a child from Sudan (Darfur) around 1877. According to writings, the girl’s happy and peaceful first few years of life changed when she was sold into slavery at age 9. She was bought and sold several times after that, tortured many times by scarification and tattooing, beaten, and forced to work for 12 years. Her first captors gave her the Iranian/Persian name Bakhita, while apparently the trauma of her abduction caused her to forget her childhood name.
Later in life, Sister Josephine Bakhita wrote an autobiography. After being brought to Italy as a servant for an Italian family, she related how she heard from Canossian Sisters in Venice about a loving God whom she felt she already knew: “Those holy mothers instructed me with heroic patience and introduced me to that God who from childhood I had felt in my heart without knowing who He was.”
Named for her, Bakhita Mountain Home is a self-defined faith-based organization. Their materials state, “Board members are comprised of Christian, Jewish and other community leaders in Colorado Springs.”
Barmann said the organization plans to connect for services with other local agencies, already collaborates with the police department, has a retired police officer on its task force, and has connections with “business people all over El Paso County who are wanting to do something about this.”
The Home also plans for “trauma-informed care” — an approach to treatment that orients against blaming or shaming a person. Barmann said that BMH has a therapist and a psychologist on its board.
The University of Buffalo Center for Social Research, at the School of Social Work emphasizes that trauma-informed care “requires a system to make a paradigm shift from asking, ‘What is wrong with this person?’ to ‘What has happened to this person?’”
It goes on to state that, “The Five Guiding Principles (of TIC) are; safety, choice, collaboration, trustworthiness and empowerment.”
“Every woman will be treated individually — we will create a plan with them,” Barmann said.
Bakhita Mountain home is also affiliated with Thistle Farms, a program for adult women survivors of Human Trafficking in Nashville, Tenn. that has existed for over 22 years.
On the Thistle Farms Instagram, a woman described as, “Ty, 2015 Graduate (of the program) & Assistant Director of Manufacturing” (of candles that are made and sold by the organization), is quoted about the impact of the program on her life. “I remember coming into the program and realizing that for years, the candle was lit for me. Knowing that people loved me and were fighting for me long before I ever knew was humbling and I am forever grateful. Making our candles is the most important thing I do. Healing, hope, and unconditional love go into each one.”
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