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Group Offers Haven to Survivors of Trafficking

May 9, 2013

By Katherine Johnson
Capital News Service

RICHMOND – After seeing a video on MySpace of a girl being forced to work in a brothel, Josh Bailey said, it “wrecked my perception of the world.” After that, he and his wife, Andrea, decided they wanted to take action.

In 2010, they founded the Gray Haven Project. The organization helps human trafficking survivors rebuild their lives.

“We looked at our city of Richmond and all of central Virginia, and we realized that there was no organization that just works with trafficking victims. We’re like, well, we want to do something about that,” Bailey said.

After learning about trafficking on a global scale, the Baileys found there weren’t any services for victims here. So the couple “took the jump” and started the organization.

“We didn’t have everything figured out; we weren’t perfect on everything. But we’re like, we don’t want to sit around and wait anymore,” Bailey said.

He describes human trafficking as “when one person or a group of people control another person for their benefit.” Victims are taken against their will, often through lies, violence or force, Bailey said. And then they’re forced into prostitution or other labor.

The Gray Haven Project works with human trafficking survivors referred to the group by churches, law enforcement agencies and other organizations. Bailey said the organization’s main goal is to help the person reintegrate into society.

“Our whole purpose of interacting with that person is to help them rebuild their life. For each person, that looks different. It has to be really individualized, but almost every time it consists of things like medical care, housing, counseling, a lot of those basic needs, and then into things like job and life skills,” he said.

Besides helping survivors, the organization wants to raise awareness of the issue in hopes of preventing it. “Where we really want to see awareness is in communities where it’s taking place and where people are most at risk and vulnerable to it,” Bailey said.

It’s important for the public to know, he said, because “anybody’s at risk technically.”

For sex trafficking, the general risk factors include being female, a teenager and having suffered abuse as a child. People most at risk for labor trafficking are usually from another country. Those are the most targeted groups, Bailey said, but these factors don’t hold true for every case of trafficking.

The public can help identify the victims of trafficking and notify authorities.

“I think the first thing you have to pay attention to is that gut feeling,” Bailey said.

Some signs that “something might be kind of off” include the potential victim being disconnected or withdrawn from the conversation, not having identification, or not knowing where they are.

“A lot of times, a victim’s not going to self-identify, because they may not recognize they’re a victim,” Bailey said. Victims can also feel as if the situation is their fault, or feel shameful.

Bailey said some victims seek help, depending on the situation. For others, “the story doesn’t end well,” especially if they get out of the situation but don’t have services to help them heal.

That’s where the Gray Haven Project comes in, offering a “high-quality approach to caring for victims.”

“Something we’re working on now is opening the first transitional housing for adult survivors of sex trafficking,” Bailey said. “That will be kind of a first step into providing this short-term and sometimes long-term safe place where a victim comes and they begin to rebuild their life … That’d be great to see.”

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On the Web

The website for the Gray Haven Project is http://thegrayhaven.org/