Sanctum House Seeks To Help Human Trafficking Survivors Reclaim Their Lives

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help-me-bannerThe entry point into human trafficking does not need to be as dramatic as the abductions portrayed in movies like Taken.

It can be as commonplace as the high school girl with low self-esteem receiving an invite from a predator to a neighborhood party attended by all the popular kids. Someone slips a pill into her drink. Under the influence, she is raped and photographed by the one who invited her to the party in the first place. Afterwards, he tells her he will release the photos on social media and tell her family and friends what she did unless she has sex with his friends. Under the definition of human trafficking, this practice is known as coercion.

The first time Edee Franklin of Huntington Woods truly understood the urgency of creating a stable environment for survivors of human trafficking, which includes forced prostitution and labor, was when she took a woman out to lunch at a restaurant.

“The woman, who for years was prostituted by her pimp, was astounded we were going to sit down and have a meal at a table and eat from a plate,” Franklin recalled. “As long as she could remember, most of her meals were eaten on the run and out of a fast-food paper bag.”

At 70, Edee, a former educator and now a real estate broker, is no stranger to knowing what it feels like to be a slave. Now 28 years free of her heroin addiction, she is the founder of Sanctum House, a three-year-old nonprofit organization that looks to shed light on and help the victims of the growing human trafficking crisis in Michigan.

In 2016 so far, the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline has received 669 calls and has confirmed 190 cases of human trafficking in Michigan. Of these cases, 143 were related to sex crimes. The others fell under the categories of labor trafficking in hard labor, hotel and hospitality, storefront brothels and escort services. The majority, 167, involved females; 23 involved males.

details
The documentary Break the Chain will be
shown at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 13, at
the Birmingham Library, 300 W. Merrill St.
A $10 donation is suggested. For details, go
to www.breakthechainfilm.com.

After launching the concept of Sanctum House and then receiving nonprofit status in 2014, Franklin this fall secured a three-year grant at $225,000 per year from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Edee Franklin, founder of Sanctum House, is working hard to establish two homes to help victims of human trafficking recover.
Edee Franklin, founder of Sanctum House, is working hard to establish two homes to help victims of human trafficking recover.

Her vision of creating a two-year rehabilitation program for women who want to reclaim their lives is backed by an advisory board representing a wide swath of nonprofit, law enforcement and governmental agencies in Metro Detroit. This includes members of Jewish Family Service, JVS and the National Council for Jewish Women, Greater Detroit Section. She is especially thankful for the training and education she received from the State of Michigan Human Trafficking Task Force, which is part of MSU’s School of Criminal Justice.

Sanctum House has secured the money and the partnerships. Now, it needs to find physical homes in Oakland and Wayne County to put its two-year rehabilitation program into play.

“For those afraid of having such a house like this in their neighborhood, they may be surprised to know there most likely already is something like [human trafficking] happening in their neighborhood,” Franklin said. “We need housing to get these victims, mostly young teens and women, away from their abusers, off the streets and on a path to repurpose their lives.”

Raising Awareness

On Oct. 30, more than 250 people, including many teenage girls, attended a symposium on human trafficking at West Bloomfield High School to listen to stories told by Franklin, law enforcement officers and social workers with expertise on the issue. The event was hosted by NCJW in partnership with the Bloomfield Hills and West Bloomfield school districts.

Several of the panelists also shared their insights and stories for the 2016 feature-length documentary Break the Chain. Also sponsored in part by NCJW and Sanctum House, the film will be screened Sunday, Nov. 13, at the Birmingham Library.

Break the Chain addresses the often “hidden-in-plain-sight” issue of human trafficking in Michigan. The film chronicles survivors of human trafficking, including Deborah Monroe, taking viewers through her experience of being sold for sex around Metro Detroit when she was 13-18 years old. Now, Monroe serves as a peer support specialist for Sanctum House.

Marlene Karp, a retired clinical consultant and NCJW member who sits on the Sanctum House advisory board, said the NCJW symposium was meaningful and informative because it directly addressed and brought a new awareness to the criminal activity “right in our backyard.”

shutterstock_168923675After working and planning with Sanctum House over the last several years, Karp said the organization has all the pieces in place. It has cultivated partnerships with social work and healthcare professionals as well as nonprofit organizations, such as Michigan Human Trafficking Task Force, to provide trafficking survivors with life and vocational skills that will lead to self-sufficiency.

“NCJW has always been on the cutting edge in meeting the needs of the community,” Karp said. “The symposium helped get the word out on how to recognize the signs that someone is being manipulated [into trafficking], whether you are a parent, educator or healthcare provider. The speakers also demonstrated how, because of our work, the court and criminal justice systems are changing their views on prostitution as not a willing act but as the prostitutes are the victims themselves.

“As this perception changes, the community needs to support a stable environment where those rescued from human trafficking can live while they do the healing work they so desperately need.” 

The Sanctum House Vision

As an organization, Sanctum House does not provide counseling to survivors but rather creates a transition from their prior lives and provides access to resources they need to recover. According to Franklin, survivors need a safe home to live in while they obtain medical care, psychological care, education (GED or college-level skills classes), life skills training and real-life experiences to help them prepare to be on their own.

With money from the grant and other private funders, Sanctum House now seeks two homes in Wayne and Oakland County to house six women each. Ten will be victims who, for months or years, have been removed from society and lack any conventional support system of friends or family. They often have little or no education or any legal identification or vocational skills. The other residents of the homes will be full-time resident managers, perhaps professionals with backgrounds in social work.

Initially starting with women victims of human trafficking, Sanctum House hopes to grow and be able to provide resources and support to male victims of labor trafficking.

Sanctum House’s two-year program is modeled after a facility that has successfully operated in Nashville since 1997. It will serve women ages 18 and older who have been rescued from the sex slave trade and have demonstrated they are ready to reclaim their lives. To qualify, women must be over age 18, have no children or any other family resource and be free of substance abuse. 

The Nashville program in 2014 demonstrated a graduation rate of 84 percent and helps 30 residents at a time. A two-year follow-up after graduation shows that 62 percent remained clean, sober and have an independent lifestyle.   

According to Franklin, only about 30 short-term beds in Oakland and Wayne counties are designated for human trafficking survivors. There are no long-term recovery programs in Michigan.

“My goal is for these women to get their lives back and rejoin the human race,” Franklin said. “It’s in my DNA. As Jews, do we still not carry the scars of slavery from all those generations ago? I’ve learned through my Jewish heritage and my own slavery to drug addiction that no one should be a slave to anything or anyone.”

For more information on Sanctum House, email info@sanctumhouse.org, call (248) 574-9373 or visit www.sanctumhouse.org.

By Stacy Gittleman, Contributing Writer

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