An out-of-state teenager was saved in Oklahoma City last year after she had naively accepted a trip from an older suitor years earlier. Once at their destination, the man turned on her, forcing the girl to “earn her keep.” A homeless woman with children was offered a job cleaning motel rooms by an “employer” and became trapped in a prostitution ring. A girl barely into her teenage years was rented out by her mother.
Sex trafficking exists in Oklahoma, and Day Spring Villa is treating its victims. “In 2010, I would have said that doesn’t happen in America, that only happens in foreign places,” said Executive Director Wilma Lively. “As hard as it is to believe, it is going on in Oklahoma – the Bible belt – and we can’t close our eyes to it any longer.” The United States is the No. 1 destination for sex trafficking, with Oklahoma near the top of the most-active state list, the State Department reports. A seven-agent unit within the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control was created to investigate human trafficking.
Day Spring Villa, located west of downtown Tulsa, is the only shelter in the state certified by the Oklahoma attorney general to treat adult sex-trafficking victims. “We felt as a Christian, faith-based domestic violence and sexual abuse shelter that we needed to step up and do something about this,” Lively said. “As a faith community, we need to help these women and their children.”
The shelter will add a 5,000-square-foot wing for treating as many as 17 sex-trafficking victims.The separate facility will allow staff members to offer more in-depth therapy. “They are going to take a longer and more specialized time to heal,” Lively said. “It’s a different type of experience than our other clients. We’re going to have to build trust and help them learn we don’t want anything from them. We just want to help them.” Lively said one victim would not eat, saying she did not like to eat in front of people. It was only in therapy that they learned that she had been trained from a young age not to eat until her quota of sexual partners had been met for the day.
“It’s about what a person needs physically, emotionally and spiritually when they come in,” Lively said.
Learn more at Ginnie Graham’s Tulsa World article: Day Spring Villa aids sex-trafficking victims.