Every year, millions of men, women and children are trafficked around the world, including the United States. There is no uniformity to trafficking; no regard to age, nationality, race, religion or gender. Defined by the National Human Trafficking Hotline as “the exploitation of someone for the purposes of compelled labor or a commercial sex act through the use of force, fraud or coercion,” the presence of this billion-dollar illegal industry is increasing at an alarming rate both globally, and here within the Commonwealth of Kentucky.
To quote the Department of Homeland Security, “the trauma caused by traffickers can be so great that many individuals may not identify themselves or ask for help, even in highly public settings.” Once they are identified, however, there are incredible programs in place ready to step in and step up to the task of providing a safe home, free from fear, as survivors piece their lives back together, stronger than before.
The Well of Lexington is one such organization. With the mission of providing a “holistic program of safe housing, recovery support, education and healing for women exploited by sex trafficking to empower them to reach economic independence and live produc- tive lives,” at The Well of Lexington, residents receive emotional support, counseling and necessary physical and psychological help. Executive Director, Eileen M. Levy shares, “The Well of Lexington means hope to me. I get to see the light come back into people’s eyes. It’s like watching little miracles happen every day. Hope to survivors, or any human for that matter, is life changing.” She adds, “All they need is a little spark. Give them their power back, a safe place to heal and with a little loving guidance, they get this spark! They deserve a fighting chance at life and it’s our mission to help make that happen.”
During their two-year tenure at The Well of Lexington, these survivors-turned-thrivers learn to live a clean, drug free life. They also find employment, advance their education and learn crucial life skills, such as learning to trust and learning to take control of their own life; difficult but critical lessons to learn. “What happens to these women takes a very long time to undo,” Eileen reminds us. “Each resident that enters The Well comes with her own unique story and here, each individual’s needs are thoughtfully addressed and carefully attended to.”
In their first year of residence at The Well, the core focus is on rebuilding, both physically and emotionally. While regaining their strength, women of The Well are provided professional support through a life skills coach, social workers and counselors. They receive transportation to medical and dental appointments and comply with all court ordered appointments.
Once the first year is complete, the second year shifts the focus to successfully living independently and what this process entails. Eileen explains, “The mission of The Well is to get our residents out of the abusive lifestyle for good and to instill in them the dignity they are entitled to while empowering them to be a self-loving, productive member of society.” She continues, “They learn to thrive and take pride in their accomplishments.”
Another avenue where the women grow tremendously involves The Well of Lexington’s social enterprise program, Clean Start. Through this community- oriented organization, the residents receive training in business skills while earning income. Once they graduate from The Well’s two-year program, these ladies will then have savings and transferable job skills that are immediately applicable to their new lives. What’s more, however, is the deep inner healing work that occurs as the women learn and talk together.
In 2019, the main goal for The Well of Lexington is raising Human Trafficking Awareness in Kentucky. Eileen explains, “We think human trafficking is a foreign problem and that it doesn’t exist here. But it does. Most of our residents were born and raised in Kentucky. In working with them, you realize that they could have been your sister, mother, niece or any relative for that matter. There are many ways that we can help The Well achieve their goals, (and we really CAN help), throughout the year including attending public presentations on human trafficking, donating time or funds to the organization or by taking part in one of their great fundraising events such as the upcoming 2nd Annual Golf Scramble on June 3rd. Held at the Spring Valley Golf Course, there are sponsorships and foursomes currently available.
“Awareness is key,” Eileen postulates. “We love to educate churches, community groups and healthcare workers. Not only does it help prevent trafficking, it helps us fund our safe house here in the Bluegrass. The more light we can shine on this the safer our community is.” To find out more and to get involved with this incredible organization, please visit thewelllexington.com. •
The following is a list of potential red flags and indicators of human trafficking to help you recognize the signs.
If you see any of these signs, you can call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888. You can learn more at the National Human Trafficking Hotline's website:
• Appearing malnourished
• Showing signs of physical injuries and abuse
• Avoiding eye contact, social interaction and authority figures/law enforcement
• Seeming to adhere to scripted or rehearsed responses in social interaction
• Lacking official identification documents
• Appearing destitute/lacking personal possessions
• Working excessively long hours • Living at place of employment
• Checking into hotels/motels with older males, and referring to those males as a boyfriend or “daddy,” which is often street slang for pimp
• Poor physical or dental health
• Tattoos/ branding on the neck and/or lower back
• Security measures that appear to keep people inside an establishment - barbed wire inside of a fence, bars covering the insides of windows
Human Trafficking 101 Presentation with Presbyterian Women’s Spring Gathering
Date: Saturday April 27, 2019
Where: Second Presbyterian Church downtown Lexington When: 10am - 12pm. All are welcome.