215 – Dr. Beth Grant and The Long Road to Restoration

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Dr. Sandie Morgan and Dave Stachowiak talk about restoration with Beth Grant, co-founder & executive director of Project Rescue. Together they discuss the challenges with aftercare for victims of human trafficking and how to best support healing in this community through genuine collaboration.

Key Points

  • The physical rescue of a victim is typically the easiest part of the restoration, the long journey of holistic care is more difficult.
  • If our priority is the restoration of these victims, a collaboration of people with different professional skills, initiatives, organizations, and faiths is not only possible but necessary.
  • We cannot allow this space to feel competitive, but rather collaborative and allow for us to celebrate what other organizations are doing well.


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Dave [00:00:00] You’re listening to the Ending Human Trafficking podcast. This is episode number 215 – Dr. Beth Grant and the Long Path to Restoration.

Production Credits [00:00:09] Produced by Innovate Learning, Maximizing Human Potential.

Dave [00:00:30] Welcome to the Ending Human Trafficking podcast. My name is Dave Stachowiak.

Sandie [00:00:35] And my name is Sandie Morgan.

Dave [00:00:38] And this is the show where we empower you to study the issues, be a voice, and make a difference in Ending Human Trafficking. Sandie, today we have with us a long friend and supporter of the Global Center for Women and Justice. And I’m so excited for our conversation today.

Sandie [00:00:54] Well, I’m excited to introduce my very good friend, and colleague, mentor. I learned a lot from Dr. Beth Grant in the early days of my work in anti-trafficking, but she’s been a part of my life for a very long time, and I appreciate her willingness to be on our podcast. So, this is Dr. Beth Grant, co-founder and executive director of Project Rescue. Welcome to the show, Beth.

Beth [00:01:23] Thanks so much, and it’s a pleasure.

Sandie [00:01:26] Well, I remember in the early days having conversations about a lot of the challenges with aftercare for victims of human trafficking, and you’ve been a leader for decades in this. When was Project Rescue founded?

Beth [00:01:43] In 1997.

Sandie [00:01:45] That’s before we even had the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. And I loved the story of how it was so driven from the field. And I just want our listeners to know how we can be in the moment and do something when we get started, but maybe then later we’re going to have to add some structure. But will you tell the story of how KK Devaraj called David?

Beth [00:02:14] Yes, KK Devaraj had been our colleague in southern Asia, for a number of years. And working with teens on the street in his major city, huge city. And one evening, he felt with his team to go into a very infamous, huge red-light district in his city, where he had never been before. He took his team there and was stunned and in tears by what he witnessed. Many times, we assume women and children in prostitution are there by choice. And in this case, they are exposed to an area of a city of up to 100,000 people where women and children had been sold into prostitution. That was in 1997, that night when he met some of these women. He just threw out an invitation. I’m up for trying to help in any way they could. What they said to him was, “we cannot leave this place, we’re slaves, but could you take our daughter to a place of safety because they’re growing up under our cots as we service customers, and could you take our daughters to a place of safety?” That night, they asked him to take 37 little girls, ages three to twelve. In that moment, he called my husband. He said, “this is what has just happened. We’ve worked together before, could we take 37 little girls and start a home?” And immediately, when we heard Sandie about that need and realized how those little girls got there in their future unless someone intervened, immediately we said yes. And my husband said, “absolutely, Devaraj, absolutely.” So, it’s how to plan without a strategy, without really much knowledge about this. We said yes at the moment because we knew these little girls were in God’s heart, every single one of them. So, that was the start that night when we said “yes” that was the beginning of Project Rescue. That was 22, 23 years ago and those thirty-seven little girls were taken to a safe place and that became the first aftercare home before there even was a trafficking world that we were aware of, but it was a response to that need at the moment.

Sandie [00:04:46] So you’ve learned a lot of lessons along the way.

Beth [00:04:50] Oh my goodness, what a journey!

Sandie [00:04:52] Ha! So, you already have a Ph.D., but I feel like you’ve earned two or three more in the process of leading project rescue and growing it. How many countries are you in now?

Beth [00:05:05] Ten.

Sandie [00:05:05] Ten countries?

Beth [00:05:07] Yes, in southern Asia and Europe and upcoming in Africa.

Sandie [00:05:12] Oh, I can’t wait too. I expect to be invited to visit your African sites when you get started, just so you know.

Beth [00:05:19] You have an open invitation.

Sandie [00:05:21] Alright. So, what I think I’d really like to talk about with restoration is that rescue is only the beginning. So, how long did you keep those kids, a year, maybe, or six months?

Beth [00:05:38] Well, some of them were with us probably at least a year to 2 years, because once you took little girls who were three, four, five, six, seven years of age in that culture and you take them out of their only community, their mothers, then you have a commitment to help them find mental, physical, medical, emotional healing, very holistic. We quickly learned that we had to provide holistic care, that the actual physical rescue ending up actually being the easy part of this journey. And so, some of those girls really graduated from the program when they were 18 years old. So, some of them were with us, yes- ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen years. Until they came to a place where they had sufficient education and vocational training, where they had a future back in society to walk in to. And so many of those young girls now over these years have graduated. And where they had the ability to do graduate studies and have MBAs. They’re professional women in their community and cities. So, while it was a daunting journey to start with, as we were learning over the years you look and now see where many of those little girls are. And it is absolutely amazing to see what can happen when holistic care has provided a loving environment.

Sandie [00:07:23] Wow. So, you joined us at Ensure Justice 2019, and for those listening, I will put the link to Dr. Grant’s presentation during the plenary and also the recordings from the workshops on our show notes. But during that time, you took an opportunity to challenge our service providers and especially our faith-based service providers, where we have lots of good intentions. And you challenged us to be more professional. You gave us some of the advantage of your years of wisdom. And so, I want to talk through some of the themes that you addressed during that presentation. And seriously, this is going to be a great podcast, everybody. But you have to go and watch Beth Grant deliver this message as well, because it is clear in her demeanor and her presentation that we have taken a solemn, solemn task to be responsible for victims of human trafficking. And we need to do our absolute best. So, let’s talk about some of those lessons that you learned. I’ll let you pick it up and go from here.

Beth [00:08:45] Well, we quickly realized that we were going to have to do some homework. You respond in the moment, you see a victimized woman or child and you want to do everything you can to get them out of that environment. But we quickly realized that the skills that would be needed, there was a spectrum of victim needs. Victims who suffered that kind of trauma, there are whole people there, they’re not just physical. So, physically rescuing them out of a red-light district was only the beginning, and we quickly realized that there were medical issues, there was extensive, extensive trauma. We needed those who knew how to do trauma counseling. We had medical issues going on. The social issues, the stigma there is for those children. So, there was a list, a spectrum of victim needs that as faith-based workers at that time, most of us didn’t have that kind of training. So, very quickly, we started realizing we were going to have to build a network of people who had professional skills that we did not have. It was all about giving that child, that woman, a different future. And so, we started identifying who are people in the city that have concern and passion to help victims of trafficking who could collaborate together with us and we could partner together, have mutual respect, and say we are going to do this together, even though sometimes we wouldn’t have worked together. But because our priority was the restoration of these victims, we said we can work together, we will do that. And so, we found people that often would not have been working together in this city. We began to choose to work together in order to see victims get the care they need. So, that was the beginning of a learning journey. I’ve said over the years, if organized crime can work together for the purposes of exploitation and greed around our world, surely good people can work together for the purpose of healing, justice, and restoration. So, that was an awesome experience. And we also realized more and more how most of us were not aware of the laws in the countries in which we were working that pertained to helping those who are being sexually exploited. So, we got into this and suddenly had to a quick run to catch up. So, each of our leaders on local initiatives were going to be held accountable to follow them. So, we had to do our homework and saying, “what are the laws in this particular state or country that we are going to have to answer to in order to do this work professionally?” We learned how important that is.

Sandie [00:11:56] You bring up such a good point. And you know that I’ve worked in the public sector quite a bit. And one of my biggest challenges when I’m on that side of the table, I feel really challenged, because people want to do something, they’re there, they say “I want to volunteer”, but they aren’t equipped. And legally, especially if I’m dealing with children, minors under the age of 18, I can’t allow them access without following legal protocols and policies that are in place to protect our children. So, how do you train your leaders?

Beth [00:12:37] Well, we train them to look if their faith-based, which is wonderful, we are Project Rescue, but we train them to look beyond faith-based, to look at government agencies, of secular agencies and NGOs that are working on the same mission to help the same population have a different future. And we train them, now look outside of our staff, who has the needed expertise and skills? What is law enforcement doing? How can we partner with them? I think tragically, I see in much of our world and the United States when I come back home, I see such a division sometimes between the secular agencies that work with trafficking victims and faith-based organizations that often we don’t realize how much we need each other. If our top priority is the rescue and restoration of men, women, and children who have been so sexually exploited to have chance for a new life and heal and freedom, we are going to have to be willing to come together and recognize the strength, there are strength and things the government and secular agencies can do that we are not equipped to do. We need to value them in their area of expertise and respect that. On the same token, those who are not faith-based, I think sometimes are unaware that victims are whole people. They’re not just body and mind, or medical. There is also a spiritual dimension to the person that is created by God in his image. And so that spiritual dynamic has to be addressed as well. And that’s where faith-based organizations that work professionally and with excellence can be trusted to help speak to that spiritual dimension of exploitation.

Sandie [00:14:55] I remember when I was a volunteer in Athens, lots of people know my story and volunteering with Doctors of the World at our shelter and having the psychologists call and ask if I could arrange to help some of the girls go to church. They had asked to go to church and the secular program didn’t have an avenue for that. So, we trained volunteers and made that a possibility. So, I think there are lots of opportunities for us to partner. And especially over the various re-authorizations of the Human Trafficking Prevention Act and the way that our federal agencies have grown, every one of our agencies has a faith-based office. And we interviewed Homeland Security has a faith-based office on their church tool kit and their faith leader tool kit. So, there are avenues for us to get on the same pathway because we recognize that collaboration makes the entire process stronger and we learn to work together and appreciate each other and not be in competition because there’s a lot of risk for lost resources that are so scarce anyway. Which kind of leads me into my next question, Dr. Grant, sometimes the problems around collaboration might be around competition because of funding streams to support the work that we’re doing. And so how do you bring your perspective into that conversation?

Beth [00:16:41] Well, I think we have, in fact, you referred to it, I think if we approach fundraising as a pie with only so many pieces, then we believe there are very limited resources. And we can inadvertently view everyone else working in this space as competitors, that work against genuine collaboration. But if we believe there are resources available out there for those who do justice on behalf of God’s sons and daughters, we can celebrate what other organizations are doing in this battle. At the same time, I think funding follows integrity and excellence, if we do what we are doing well professionally and with integrity, it’s much easier to find funding. So, I think one of the greatest gifts we can give is commended others who are doing this work well. So, whether they’re faith-based NGOs, governmental, law enforcement, I think there is much space and actually benefit when we learn to commend each other, those who work well in this space. And that’s fundraising, we have lots of opportunity to demonstrate our integrity, our unfortunately, our lack of it. I sadly, I never see greater exploitation in marketing and promotion than I do among those who are working with trafficked women and children.

Sandie [00:18:25] What does that look like?

Beth [00:18:27] Well, for example, re-exploitation to use in stories, and putting girls’ stories on the Internet without asking permission, using photos of real victims who in many places the internet is such a vulnerable place for girls than to literally be re-exploited and be re-prostituted. There’s just so much danger inherent with it that we have to bend over backward as those who work with aftercare and victims of trafficking to find ways. Yes, we want to in a sense, obviously, we have to raise funds, but how can we do that that protects the victims as if it was my own daughter. We’ll have people contact us that says we’ll give, and we want to help you, but not unless we can come to see it.

Sandie [00:19:28] That turns it into like tourism.

Beth [00:19:30] Well, it does. And I always inside, I gasp and catch my breath. Because what our priority in working with those who have been sexually exploited is to protect them and help them heal in a safe place. So, there have been times, Sandie, where we’ve had to say to people that I believe are well-meaning to say we’re sorry, but we can give you information, we can let you know how we do what we do, we can give you what you need to help you know where your funds will be spent at, and we would hope we are trustworthy and do what we do with integrity. But we do not allow visits for people to go through our after-care homes and to see the girls there. I have said to several, if this was my daughter who had been raped day after day, year after year, and traumatized so deeply, and now she was in a program or at my home trying to heal. I would not invite men and women, but especially men who are strangers to her, to come to see her, to see her bedroom, and see who she is. So, in that way, we protect, that is our responsibility when we say we will help, we will protect them from that form of free exploitation. So, sometimes we find people appreciate that and say, “oh, OK, we didn’t understand. We believe in what you’re doing, and we will help you.” So, I appreciate the fact that I think those who put that kind of pressure. I think I would like to think they are more of an exception because I think so many people, if we help them understand what we support and say, yes, OK, we get it, we’ll help you.

Sandie [00:21:37] Well, and I just want to reinforce because you did say we should celebrate those who are doing this well. So, I want to recommend that you go to ProjectRescue.com and see for yourself how carefully the Web site is crafted so as not to invade the privacy of victims, to respect the dignity of each one that’s being helped. And the other thing that I saw when I, because I always go in and review a Web site before I do a podcast, is that you really documented the local efforts. So, we’re not taking our western ways into a community, but it shows over 400 people in the national country that are part of the aftercare team in one country, for example. And I think that’s an example of best practice.

Beth [00:22:36] Yes, for us, that is critical. From the beginning, we realized the strength of Project Rescue initiatives would be champion who were local men and women in country, that nation, those cities that cared so deeply about helping those who were being prostituted and exploited that they were going to find a way to help. And those are the ones, Sandie, that are laying their lives out there 24/7 and taking risk in order to help women and children find freedom and a different life. So, when you say for us that’s best practice, is having those national ministers, staff, professional people, they are the strength of Project Rescue in their country.

Sandie [00:23:29] That’s so, so good. OK. We have five minutes. Last question, what do you wish you’d known 20 years ago?

Beth [00:23:39] I’m going to quote from some of our readers on the ground who have up to 20 years of experience doing this. They said, “I wish that I had known how complicated and challenging this would be. It would not be an event. It would be a long journey of healing and restoration.” They said, “we wish we’d known more about the legal aspects of sex trafficking.” A number of them said that. “We wish we had known that the hardest work begins when that individual leaves the red-light district, that’s just the beginning of rescue.” They said, “we wish we knew that we would personally need to develop strength and resilience and peace. This would not be easy, it is hard work. And those we seek to help the most many times can seem very ungrateful because of their trauma.” They said, “we wish we had a better understanding of the kinds of roles and professional skills needed to do this work so that they could have more easily found their place. They were not going to be the answer, they would only be one part of it.” Others said, “I wish I had better understand the unique physical, psychological, and emotional needs of trafficked women and children.” Some said, “I wish that I had known that even a Compassion Ministry needs to go through legal procedures and practices and is required.” That was repeated so many times. And lastly, one said, “Transformational after care for survivors of sexual exploitation requires a very long-term commitment. It’s worth it, but there are no short cuts. ”

Sandie [00:25:42] #NoShortcuts, we will put that in our show notes. I totally agree with you, Beth, and I know that if tomorrow were the first day of this, you and David would say yes again.

Beth [00:25:53] Absolutely. It’s the best mission.

Sandie [00:25:59] Wow. Well, there is a lot to take away from this. We’ll put a link to the ProjectRescue.com Web site. Is there any other resource that you would like to recommend to us, Beth?

Beth [00:26:11] Well, I have to recommend Hands That Heal, an international curriculum to train those who do aftercare for survivors. And that’s a joint project through the Faith Alliance Against Slavery and Trafficking, FAAST, of over 40 writers from different organizations and initiatives. So, I was a part of that, but it’s still one of my favorites because of that great collaboration that it took for that.

Sandie [00:26:45] And we will put a link to that and previous podcasts where we featured the Hands that Heal curriculum. I think it’s been translated in like 19 languages and is such a great training resource. And Beth was the lead editor for that, so it’s a great project. And we hope to see more writing from you, Beth, so we can take advantage of what you’ve learned. And I’d love to learn more about the process of training in different cultures and how you’ve adapted. Those are really big questions that often come to my conversation in different venues. And so, this has been a terrific conversation and we hope to have you back at Ensure Justice in the future.

Beth [00:27:36] Thank you, Sandie, and thank you for all you are doing, and that Ensure Justice does. Thank you, you’ve been a pioneer, you are a pioneer. And I am so thankful for the coalitions that you are building a network of vital parts. Thank you so much.

Dave [00:27:56] Thank you so much to you both, Beth and Sandie. Sandie, I just would echo your recommendation to visit the Website. I was taking a look as you were both talking, and just an incredible example of this done so well. And just the scope of work is just profound, how much work Beth and her team have done. So, please take a moment to visit that. All of the show notes are available online, go over to endinghumantrafficking.org. You can find all the notes, the links for this episode, as well as every other episode we have aired since 2011. We’re entering our ninth year safely together. We were just talking about longevity in this conversation, and we have been in it for the long run as well. We also mentioned Ensure Justice, the next Ensure Justice is coming up in just under two months, March 6th and 7th, 2020. Go to EnsureJustice.com for more information there. And if you are just listening for the first time, endinghumantrafficking.org is where to go to find a copy of Sandie’s free book, The Five Things You Must Know, A Quick Start Guide to Ending Human Trafficking. And we will see you back in two weeks. Thanks, Sandie.

Sandie [00:29:07] Thanks, Dave.

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