Safe house for child victims of human trafficking to open in Pensacola
PENSACOLA, Fla. (WEAR) —
A safe house for child victims of human trafficking will be opening in Pensacola this spring. It’s for girls between the ages of 12 and 17.
Organizers say it will be the first home of its kind in our region. The next closest one is in Orlando.
The safe house will be called The Secret Place. It will sit on acres of land in an undisclosed location. Organizers say they will partner with medical professionals to meet the girls’ physical and emotional needs.
At first, they'll be able to take five girls at a time and they hope to expand in the future.
Founder Kristin Lipscomb said, "These are our own kids, these kids being trafficked in Circuit 1. They are in our backyards, they are being trafficked by their own families and are being exploited and groomed."
She hopes The Secret Place will allow these victims to start to heal.
"When traffickers grab hold of these children, they do everything you would think a human being would not do. They exploit them, rape them, damage them, control them,” Lipscomb said.
The Secret Place will provide the victims with counseling, dental care, OB-GYN services, and much more. Each girl will have her own room and bathroom.
The definition of human trafficking is broad. It's not always a situation where a child is taken and sold in another country.
The Department of Homeland Security defines it as a form of modern-day slavery in which traffickers control victims to engage in sex acts or labor services against their will. The Secret Place will be licensed by the state and work with the Department of Children and Families.
Program Director Alicia Tappan said they will be breaking a cycle for many of these girls. She said many victims don't realize they are being trafficked.
"They don't see it, they think it’s a job or a boyfriend and they really care about them, but in reality, they are exploiting and using them for their own gain,” she said.
She said through individual and group therapy, along with consistency, the program will allow the girls to heal.
"Having a home filled with safety, love, and protection and helping people move forward allows them to see life in a different light," said Tappan.
It will cost about $400 a day per child to provide the services they need. They are asking for community support.
This weekend, they are holding a 5K race to raise funds and awareness. There is also a volunteer meeting on November 6. For details on how to get involved, click here.