RISE (Restoring Identities after Sexual Exploitation) is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) corporation registered with the State of Oklahoma. It is a shelter providing a safe living environment to youth girls under age 18 who are victims of sex trafficking and/or commercial sexual exploitation. The program will form partnerships with law enforcement, the Oklahoma Department of Human Services (DHS), the Oklahoma Attorney General’s (AG) office, the District Attorney’s (DA) office, the courts, local service providers and volunteers.
The goal of RISE is to provide a shelter where minor victims of sex trafficking and/or commercial sexual exploitation can live and receive comprehensive and individualized services and mentoring/advocacy to permanently escape the world of the sex trade and become strong, independent, responsible adults.
There are at least 100,000 children prostituted within the U. S. annually, with an average starting age of 13. FBI reports indicate that each year in the United States, there are 293,000 children at risk for being trafficked and that most are 12 – 14 years of age. In fact, there are fewer than 300 shelter beds available in the U. S. for sex trafficked minors.
Current Oklahoma law requires that minors who are victims of sex trafficking or commercial sexual exploitation are to be placed into the custody of DHS upon recovery by law enforcement. There is a shortage of foster homes in the state of Oklahoma for children who are taken in to DHS custody due to abuse and neglect, which leaves an even greater shortage of homes that can take victims of trafficking. There is currently one shelter for youth victims of sex trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation in the state of Oklahoma located in Idabel that has 8 beds (2 are held for emergency), leaving 6 available beds. When the shelter in Idabel is full and there are no foster home placements available within the state, victims are transported to a shelter in Houston, Texas.
RISE is a shelter that would provide a placement opportunity for DHS and self-identified victims in Oklahoma so that children already traumatized by being trafficking victims are not further harmed by removal out of state.
The RISE shelter will be open to both victims recovered by law enforcement and subsequently put into DHS custody, as well as to self-identified youth trafficking victims.
RISE shelter is being established to provide a safe living environment for youth girls who have been victims of sex trafficking and/or commercial sexual exploitation in Oklahoma. The shelter’s programming will additionally provide services or access to services in order to restore victims to survivors who are able to successfully and permanently escape life in the sex trade.
- Shelter – a 12 bed facility – 2 held for emergency placement – 10 beds in continuous use where victims reside in safety away from their traffickers and from sex buyers
- Medical care – offered in-house for routine care; outside the facility for additional care
- Counseling – contracted with outside service providers
- Education – Online school, GED classes
- Skills training – resume writing, interviewing, dressing for success, how to fill out job applications, make-up and hair styling classes, cooking classes
- Therapy – pet therapy, art therapy, music therapy, jewelry making
- Cosmetology – hair cuts and styling
- Fitness – on site exercise equipment, yoga classes
- Responsibility development – residents will be required to help in the kitchen/dining room, routine facility clean up, routine upkeep of individual sleeping quarters and doing laundry
- Mentoring/advocacy – volunteer team who provide support at court hearings, transportation to and from off site services and general emotional support
- Spirituality – Bible studies, chapel services and prayer available to residents who request it
The mission of RISE shelter is based on the following principles:
- Commitment – RISE wants to provide and encourage pro-social relationships, strong interpersonal skills and to instill a sense of hope for the future
- Responsibility – The focus of RISE is to empower youth who have been victims of sex trafficking and/or commercial sexual exploitation to become survivors and independent, responsible adults by learning life skills, encouraging recognition of the value of education and providing opportunities to follow through on commitments
- Possibility – RISE wants to expand the perspective of the youth it serves to make them aware of the possibilities available to them in a life outside of and untainted by their past experiences in the sex trade
- Support – One’s support system greatly influences the path their individual life takes. RISE wants to surround youth victims of trafficking and/or commercial exploitation in a safe, caring, learning environment and with people who pass no judgment and are invested in helping them create positive futures.
Keys to Success
- Establish a strong network of support within New Community Church, Muskogee and surrounding cities, communities, churches, DHS and other organizations
- Launch a capital campaign and locate investors that will successfully fund the building of the shelter
- Establish an effective training program for staff, advocates and volunteers that will increase their abilities to reach and successfully help victims become survivors