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Learning to Dream Big March 17 2017, 0 Comments

At Rethreaded, we have heard survivors say time and time again that they have not felt that they have had permission to dream big, and at times I have felt that way myself. To truly break the cycle of the sex trade women need to be empowered to dream as big as they wish. That’s why this year we are focusing on advocacy, career building and leadership training through the Survivor Development Program.

Last week, we went to the Eighth Annual Professional Development Forum, Finding Your True North & Keeping It presented by the UNF Coggin College of Business student-led organization Women in Business Society. For one of our employees, it was the first time she had been invited to attend a professional event like this. We were very excited for the opportunity. We attended workshops where they talked about effective leadership, finding personal strengths and discussed the results of personality tests. One of the most impactful moments for one of them woman was during a session where the professor identified her as having the highest dominance score in the room. He spoke about the quality as an asset and encouraged her in her role as a leader. In a moment, what she saw as something negative in herself now had value. She said, “I knew that I had certain skills but for a long time I didn’t think it possible for these to translate into anything purposeful or meaningful in life. Recently, I have started to have a shift in perspective and heard other people around me saying the same thing.”

We left the event feeling confident that we can use our skills to empower others and felt inspired to grow into the leaders we are created to be. For us this was just more confirmation that people believe in us and because of it, we are more comfortable with who we are.


At Rethreaded, we hear more and more every day that survivors are finding their hopes and dreams again. Help us to keep igniting passion and purpose into the lives of survivors by donating the Survivor Development Program.


Career Development in Action March 08 2017, 0 Comments

I recently attended the Jacksonville Business Journal’s Advertising and Marketing Summit with the Rethreaded Marketing team. It was my first experience in this type of environment. I have only been working in marketing for about 6 months and I have had no prior experience, so this was so exciting for me! Ansley, the Director of Marketing at Rethreaded, explained a few things that made me feel more comfortable and at ease. I learned about the importance of networking and making connections at this kind of function as I watched her interact with other professionals.

Because of my current role, I am involved in event logistics, I was noticing all of the small details that made that event go off so well. The first thing I noticed was that the event’s sponsors were well represented. The way the tables were set-up with dark tablecloths and light-colored overlays, check-in table was well organized and the speaker was very engaging. Breakfast was served quickly and I was pleasantly surprised that they even had a vegan option! Then, the panel was introduced and we learned about each individual’s accomplishments and qualifications. I took notes as each speaker talked about their biggest victories in business and biggest mistakes.

There are a couple of things that I really liked they spoke about building trust, being authentic and that you have to market the marketing. Someone said, “just because I am immersed in a campaign doesn’t mean everyone else is”. I understood this because during Christmas we had The Rethreaded Challenge and I remember expecting someone from another department to know all about it, they didn’t and I realized then that I was having tunnel vision and needed to step back and “market the marketing”. The knowledge and experience I gained at the event were absolutely beneficial to the development of my skills in marketing and I am glad to have been a part of it.


Meeting Kari Jobe March 02 2017, 0 Comments

At Rethreaded incredible things happen every day. The redemption that the organization holds is baffling and quite often our community really expresses their love for us in spectacular ways! Most recently this manifested itself by a couple of Rethreaded employees getting the opportunity to meet Kari Jobe at New Life Christian Fellowship during The Garden Tour. A couple of phone calls were made by a Rethreaded advocate that allowed the organization the opportunity to meet the Christian contemporary singer and songwriter and gift her with some Rethreaded gear. (We are hopefully anticipating a great picture of Kari wearing a Chunky Grace Scarf!)

The whole experience was made even more special by the fact that the two survivors who were able to attend the event really love Kari Jobe’s music. For one of the women it was her first Christian concert and an experience that she will never forget. She said, “I have been listening to her music and watching her videos and it has always touched me how enthusiastically Kari sings and worships, but to be there. It’s like I just wanted to soak it all in.” The night started off with early entry into the concert and getting to be a part of a small, intimate Q & A with Kari and her husband Cody. Many of the questions were geared to Kari’s music ministry by aspiring worship leaders. Then came the meet and greet. Kari was so humble and down to earth, but also excited to hear about the mission of Rethreaded.

Reflecting on the experience reminds not only the women who were able to attend but the entire staff, that what seems unachievable, extravagant and out of reach may really just be a phone call away. With a community that really cares, we can accomplish anything. The final and lasting impression of the women attending the concert was this, “The impossible is possible and God is all around us.”


Thank You for Helping Us Celebrate Freedom! February 22 2017, 0 Comments

As everyone started to arrive at this year’s Mukti, the weather was perfect and the valet took care of parking (nice!). The first thing that we did was get our photo taken at the Tin Can Photo Lounge (sponsored by Freshfield Farms) and it was super fun to have a chance to be silly! When we walked in the Glass Factory the venue was beautiful and the lighting was perfect, we started the night off with a welcome drink provided by Constellation Brands. Straight ahead, was the silent auction. It was so well organized and displayed, I was impressed!

My friends started to show up and we decided to head over to the pop-up shop and do a little browsing. We learned that some of the products were handmade out of t-shirt by local survivors of human trafficking and others were imported from all over the world. Either way each product is handmade by a survivor and every purchase economically empowers a woman in the U.S. or overseas - that’s amazing! I even found a special gift for my Valentine.


The next thing I knew, the room was full of people, all with one purpose that night: to celebrate freedom! I went over to the table for the champagne raffle and got my number. The Band Be Easy was playing and I was making my way to the dance floor but I had to stop and try out the Hors d'oeuvres! The lights began to flicker and everyone started to find their seats. When I got to my table the first thing I noticed was the centerpiece, the floral arrangements by Cantor Palm were breathtaking and I had to have one! I claimed my Mukti flowers right then.


Lawson and Chelsea Carr, the emcees introduced themselves and then the current human trafficking statistics were projected onto the big screen. The room became silent as we took in the information and were all in awe of what is being accomplished at Rethreaded. Mac McGhee, Executive Vice President of Mac Papers (the presenting sponsor) and Tyson Alualu, defensive end for the Jacksonville Jaguars both stood behind the podium and read poetry. When they were finished we went over to the bar to get a glass of wine to drink with dinner. The food was served buffet style by Biscottis and we each made a plate, we chose from salad, penne pasta, green beans and either chicken or salmon. We stopped by the dessert table to grab a cupcake from Sweet by Holly, macaroons from Motion Sweets and a chocolate chip cookie from Zoe’s Kitchen.


After we finished eating I circled back to the silent auction to see if my bid was still the highest on the items I chose and bid again. We sat back down to hear Melissa Nelson, State Attorney, read poetry. Next, we heard an incredibly personal and moving poem written and recited by Kansas Williams, Rethreaded's Operation's Associate.

After drying our eyes from listening to Kansas powerful poem, we watched Rethreaded's new short film Renew: To Be Made Strong Again. It was an incredible transition into listening to the next set of speakers. Kristin Keen, Rethreaded Founder and President speak about the plans that they have for the future as a company. Jamie Rosseland, Rethreaded Assistant Marketing Manager, shared her story of renewal and hope. Jason Jones, Rethreaded Director of Operations, share the inspiring vision to hire 12 more women this year and what we will need to do in order to make that happen. It was such an emotional and inspiring night.

Then they called the winning number for the Champagne Raffle! We finished out the night dancing and drinking coffee from Social Grounds! I picked up my winnings from the Silent Auction and went home knowing that I had been a part of something meaningful and that I am now an advocate for freedom!

(To see more pictures. learn more about this event and see all the amazing sponsors click here.)

 

 


Three Ways One Valentine’s Gift Can Express Love February 02 2017, 0 Comments

It’s almost Valentine’s Day, and I hope for you, love is in the air. As I start thinking about getting the perfect gift for my someone special this year, I started thinking about what it really means to love. How it is less than a feeling and more of an action. I reasoned that on a day that is supposed to represent love, I can express it in much more ways that one.

1. Make a Difference in Someone’s Life

It’s not as difficult as it sounds. I learned that just by changing where I buy my gifts from I can add value and substance into the life of a woman. When I shop at companies like Rethreaded, I know the mission and the purpose behind the company. I know that I am actively choosing to invest in women, that they are being offered economic empowerment through employment. Each product is handcrafted by a survivor who is receiving new life, and through my purchase, I get to be a part of it.

2. Share Hope

When I get to give a gift that has such a beautiful story, I also get to spread a message of hope. It holds so much more value that the gift I’m giving will still mean something past next week, it’ll be something I know will be cherished because it changed someone’s life. Some of the products at Rethreaded are made in Jacksonville, others in places like India and Cambodia. Each one is special and holds so much value.  It is like a break in the far too often negative messages we each receive each day.

3. Give a Beautiful Gift

With the gifts I buy at Rethreaded I am making a difference in someone’s life, I am sharing hope, but I am also giving the person I love a really beautiful gift. When I buy a purse like the City Bag, I know that a person stitched the seams when I buy an Infinity Necklace a woman molded the metal when I buy a Grace Scarf a woman wound the wrap, and I know that it was all done with the utmost care. Each gift is unique and handcrafted, and I know it will wow them!

So with one act, I can express love in three ways. I can shop for freedom, hope and love.

Shop our Valentine’s Day Gift Guide for great gift ideas.

The 5 Worst Things to Say to a Survivor January 25 2017, 3 Comments

This blog was inspired by conversations between survivors and the realization that each of us had experienced one or more of these uncomfortable situations. These are the five worst things survivors think you can say to them.

Are you a survivor?

When I found freedom from the sex trade I didn't identify as a survivor. I didn't even identify myself as a victim of human trafficking. I identified myself as a prostitute. Today, I believe that there really is no such thing as voluntary prostitution. The majority of people are led to the sex trade by some sort of desperation and become vulnerable to exploitation. By definition, prostitution is coercive and exploitive. But back then I didn't know this and even if you told me I was a victim I wouldn't have believed you. Today, I identify as a survivor of sex trafficking and work at organizations that aim to empower and employ survivors. However, that doesn't mean I want anyone approaching me while I am working at my office or during an event and asking me, "Are you a survivor?" Even if your intentions are good, you've interrupted me at a moment when I might not be ready to be vulnerable. I have so much more to offer than just my survivorship. 

Tell me your story...

This puts me in a very bad spot. Not only does it make me feel very uncomfortable, but it puts me on the defensive. Before I tell my story I have to mentally and emotionally prepare myself. Take a second to put yourself in my shoes. I'm a human being with self-respect, just like you. Do you want someone to ask you about one of your most shame-filled moments when you're unprepared? Survivors do tell their stories in a life-giving way but not at the drop of a hat. It is my choice when, where, and with whom I share my story. Please allow me the choice to tell it when I am ready.

No really, can you just tell me some of your story?

When I am asked to share my story, or asked to do something out of my comfort zone and I decline, it can be very insulting to hear that it is not respected. Most survivors spend years finding their voice. Many of us still battle daily with feeling like our voices don't matter. Not taking no for an answer shows your lack of empathy and knowledge of the complexity of trauma. My story isn’t for people to use as entertainment. Your curiosity isn't more important than my privacy and sense of security. Please respect my boundaries when I tell you that I would not like to discuss my story with you.

Why didn’t you just leave? How much money did you make?

When I share my story with others I do it because it empowers me and because it raises awareness on the issue of sex trafficking. I have been trained on how to tell my story and I've become very comfortable with how much of I share. I do not sensationalize what happened to me, but share details that are important for the public to know. I, along with other survivors I know are comfortable with questions being asked after sharing, however, questions prying into gory details are completely inappropriate. Instead of focusing on the negative I went through please ask me about the hope in my story, about what I’m doing with my life now, and how we as a community can offer hope to other survivors. We can change the conversation, and look for solutions together.

You really just need to...

There are all forms of trauma and no two stories are the same. I know people want to support survivors and comfort them but comparing your traumatic experiences to me being trafficked is unnecessary.  If I am not asking you to direct me to a resource, counseling or advice, please do not offer these.The probability is that the survivor you are talking to has navigated these things on their own with professionals,  and their choices are personal, just as it would be a personal decision for you to choose a therapist.  

As survivors, we realize that most people are coming from a good place when asking questions, and just want to learn more about human trafficking, but we ask you to respect us as individuals and be sensitive to where we may be at in our journey. We do have some resources that we recommend that can help you grow in your knowledge and understanding of this issue.

What IS Human Trafficking

The Polaris Project

Shared Hope International

Photo Credit: Bob Self and The Florida Times Union

This blog was part of the Breaking Misconceptions Blog Series. To learn more check out the rest of the series. 

What IS Human Trafficking?

Why Getting Out of the Sex Trade Wasn't the Hardest Part

"You don't look like a survivor..."

Why She Isn't a Prostitute

 


Why She Isn't a Prostitute January 23 2017, 2 Comments

Written by a survivor of human trafficking


There are few things more powerful than language.

It connects us, allows us to express emotions to one another, gives us the ability to work as a team. It defines our culture and communities. With it we empower, inspire and encourage others. With it we choose what we like and what we don’t. We tell our families and the ones we care for how much we love them.

It is so important that it’s use is protected by the very first amendment to the constitution.

But as much as language can be used for good, improper use of language can cause much harm. A few harsh words can leave a person feeling rejected and unloved, can cause rifts in community, and have even broken peace and resulted in war.

One of the worst things we have done with language is used it to label people and separate them from ourselves, separating ourselves from their problems, separating ourselves from their humanness. Labels such as homeless, addict, criminal, prostitute.

It is time for us in the anti-trafficking movement to look at the words we use and understand how they are shaping society's perception on this complex issue. She was never a prostitute, and she is not an ex-prostitute. What a harsh label to put on a woman who has become a victim of the crime of human trafficking. With this label we look past her as a victim, we look past her potential, and mostly we just look past her. With this word we look at her circumstances, past or present, and define her by what has happened to her, and what she has done. With this word, we blame her for the vulnerabilities that made her susceptible to force, fraud and coercion.

Let’s change the conversation, and start recognizing that each person is human and has a story to tell. She is a survivor of human trafficking who was prostituted. It is something that happened to her and does not define who she is. It’s not a decision she made for herself or a lifestyle that she choose. When we change the way we speak, we are honoring the survivors we stand side by side with, and we are offering new survivors the chance to break the invisible chains of self-shame and self-condemnation.

When we drop the labels, we drop our judgment, and we make a straight path out for those to come.

This blog was part of the Breaking Misconceptions Blog Series. To learn more check out the rest of the series. 

What IS Human Trafficking?

Why Getting Out of the Sex Trade Wasn't the Hardest Part

"You don't look like a survivor..."

The 5 Worst Things to Say to a Survivor

 


"You don't look like a survivor..." January 17 2017, 4 Comments

Writtin by a survivor of human trafficking

In school, I was creative, determined, intelligent. An above average student. I really loved to write and tell stories. I remember in my freshman year of high school my English teacher gave the class an assignment to write a short narrative, maybe a couple pages long. It sparked something in me. I stayed up late each night working on the project. By the end of the week, I turned in eight pages of an incomplete work. I esteemed myself highly, knowing that I had potential and was on the way to college, dreaming of one day becoming an author.

Then life happened, and my ambitions were soon quenched by trouble in my home. My parents separated and my sister I moved to a small apartment with my mom. She worked two jobs to provide for us. I lacked the skills or resources to understand my worth and value. My whole world was shattered. All of my intelligence counted as nothing. I went from a fractured home, into an abusive relationship that lasted years, to falling victim to being trafficked, and now a few years later after I share my story, someone says,

“You don’t look like a survivor…”

It’s a statement I hear quite often. Sometimes it is buffered with a preface that it is not really appropriate to say, but most of the time it’s not.

And it leaves me wondering,

What am I supposed to look like?

Is it strange because I enter a room with confidence because I am well spoken, and I dress like you? Is it strange because instead of being wrecked by my past, I have found ways to find purpose in it?

Much of who I am today has been shaped by being trafficked, but even more so I am the same little girl who had all those hopes and dreams, who was determined and creative. My traffickers tried to steal that little girl from me, they tried to steal my moxie. I believed the lie I would never amount to anything again, but I made it out.

Just like that assignment in high school, something has been sparked in me, and in the last year I have spent a lot of time speaking publicly on the subject of human trafficking, sharing parts of my story, encouraging audiences to advocate, seeking to change perspectives and offer hope.

To me, this is what a survivor looks like. She is empowered and determined. She is fighting for other survivors. She is chasing after the dreams she once had and finding new ones. She is that little girl who has grown into a mother, a businesswoman, an advocate. She can be anything she wants to be, and mostly she’s not that different than you.

(Photo cred: Lauren Trantham and Ride My Road)

This blog was part of the Breaking Misconceptions Blog Series. To learn more check out the rest of the series. 

What IS Human Trafficking?

Why Getting Out of the Sex Trade Wasn't the Hardest Part

Why She Isn't a Prostitute

The 5 Worst Things to Say to a Survivor


Why Getting Out of the Sex Trade Wasn't the Hardest Part January 10 2017, 3 Comments

Written by a survivor of human trafficking

When I escaped the sex trade, I did not identify as a survivor. I thought that I was a bad person who made bad decisions. I was put in a program designed to help with drug addiction and alcoholism. I was provided with housing at a sober living facility. I was required to find a legitimate job. I was 23 years old and I had nothing to put on a resume, except I worked at a couple of different restaurants between 16 and 18 years old for a couple of months each, nothing that would make an employer think “She will be an asset to our company.”

No one knew that being prostituted was a part of my recent past, I didn’t tell anyone. I felt ashamed and alone, I didn’t know what to say. It was easier to admit to being a drug addict because there was community and support for that affliction. On my journey to becoming employed, I had a couple of problems. I did not feel confident that I would be hired and I had no clothes that were appropriate for an interview. I reached out to an old friend and asked her if she knew of anyone who would hire me and she said to come by her place of employment and talk with the owner.

I showed up the next day and was introduced to him and hired on the spot. I felt excited to have a job and for a second, I let myself become excited about the prospect of a new life. I went to work the following day and was washing dishes, the next thing I knew, I was being groped and told that if I didn’t allow this- there would be no work available for me. I felt scared and unsure of what to do next. It was a requirement of the program to be employed. I finished out the day and went home, feeling somehow like I had failed and that this was my fault.

The next day, I told my case manager what happened. I also confessed to her my past experiences with the sex trade. She tried to help the best she could and I quit that job. Shortly after, I had the same experience at another job. I quit that one too. Eventually, I found a job that didn’t include sexual harassment. At this point, I was physically free from the sex trade but the effects lingered. I was first trafficked at the age of 17. I am now 27 years old and 4 years out of the sex trade. I have accomplished a lot but couldn’t shake the emptiness I felt on the inside. I was still haunted by intrusive thoughts of past trauma, I didn’t know that survivor services existed or even applied to me. Then I applied with Rethreaded.

My journey wasn't easy, I had to fight every day to get free from the bondage of the sex trade.There are many obstacles and challenges that women face in physically escaping the sex trade, but much more lie ahead for women on their journey to continued healing and living a whole life. The reality is that many women leave the sex trade incredibly disadvantaged and vulnerable to re-exploitation. A real escape doesn’t happen until those vulnerabilities are overcome. It wasn’t until I was connected with Rethreaded and the Survivor Advocate Program that I was able to find acceptance and healing. I was taught how to dress for success. I have skills that I can put on a resume and use to advance in my career. I have been given the tools to build a life that is beyond what I ever thought possible. I now know that my past does not define me.

This blog was part of the Breaking Misconceptions Blog Series. To learn more check out the rest of the series. 

What IS Human Trafficking?

"You don't look like a survivor..."

Why She Isn't a Prostitute

The 5 Worst Things to Say to a Survivor


What IS Human Trafficking? January 02 2017, 2 Comments

From our Founder and President, Kristin Keen

I am sitting across from fellow business owners at an entrepreneurship convention and am telling them about our work. I say, “I work with survivors of human trafficking.” The owners all shake their heads and say, “Wow, good work is being done at Rethreaded. Keep it up.”

I proceed to ask them, “What is human trafficking?” They give me a nervous look and say “I don’t actually know what it is. But I know it's bad.”

I was thankful for my peers’ honest answer and I feel like their answers are closer to what people actually know about human trafficking.  We know it's bad, we just don’t know what it is.  Some of us have seen movies like Taken or images like this:  

Source: http://borgenproject.org/causes-of-human-trafficking/

or this:


Source: 
https://cdn.nyccriminallawyer.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Human-trafficking.jpeg

All of these images represent a narrow perspective of human trafficking but we want to raise awareness about the realities we have found from doing this work day to day and from survivors sharing their experience. With this knowledge, we can work as a community to stop it.

Five Truths You Need to Know About Human Trafficking:

1. Human Trafficking is the exploitation of another human’s vulnerabilities for the sake of profit.

This can take the form of sex trafficking, and these are the survivors Rethreaded works with. According to the US Government, sex trafficking, is an act in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age.  People are making lots of money making people perform sexual acts under force, fraud, and coercion, in fact it’s a 32 billion dollar a year industry.

2. Human Trafficking can happen to any person at any age.

Most people have in their head that anyone who is being trafficked is a child.  Yes, it is illegal for a child to be exploited through force, fraud or coercion, but it is also illegal to traffick anyone over the age of 18. This includes men and women. The truth is that trafficking can happen to anyone who is vulnerable. At Rethreaded, our employees range in age from nineteen to fifty-four, and we have employed men and women survivors.

3. Human Trafficking does not mean that a person is being moved around.

Trafficking is defined as the deal or trade in something illegal. This means if a person is being sold as a commodity, they are a victim of human trafficking even if they have never left the city they were born in. For example, a man was recently arrested on 34 counts of human trafficking in Jacksonville. One of those victims was born and raised in Jacksonville and was controlled through, violence, coercion, and shame within these city limits.

4. Survivors don’t often identify themselves as victims until they are out and receiving healing.

Human trafficking breaks down a person mentally, physically, and emotionally. The traffickers' job is to make it seem like she had done something wrong, she is choosing this lifestyle and it is all her fault that all these bad things are happening. When a woman is able to leave the situation and regain what has been taken she can clearly see how she was exploited. It's a process that we see at Rethreaded over and over again.  

5. This is not just a women’s issue. This is an “us” issue and only together can we stop it.

The exploitation of people by the sex trade industry is driven by demand to buy sex.  Traffickers exploit people so they can make a profit.  99% of the buyers are men. We believe that a man’s journey into buying sex is just as broken as a women’s journey is in selling sex. We need men who will stand up and be a voice to other men about what is really going on. We need each other to make sure that we can stop the exploitation of people.

At Rethreaded we want to provide hope to other survivors, to our community and our world.  It takes us all.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.”  -Margaret Mead

This blog was part of the Breaking Misconceptions Blog Series. To learn more check out the rest of the series. 

"You don't look like a survivor..."

Why Getting Out of the Sex Trade Wasn't the Hardest Part

Why She Isn't a Prostitute

The 5 Worst Things to Say to a Survivor