On April 12, the atmosphere at DaySpring Villa turned positively electric. Executive Director Wilma Lively had just received a letter from the Oklahoma Attorney General’s office congratulating DaySpring Villa for earning the first certification of any shelter in the state to provide emergency housing and services to adult sexual trafficking victims.
The landmark achievement did not go unnoticed.
“The phone started ringing almost immediately,” Lively said. “I could not believe the number of people calling us, wanting to help and become involved.”
Less than a month after announcing DaySpring Villa had received its certification, the shelter was ready to put its plan into action—and it would be called Project Dark 2 Light.
Project Dark 2 Light invites companies, foundations, churches and individuals to partner with DaySpring Villa in a broad effort to transform the lives of adults who have escaped a lifetime of sexual slavery.
“Project Dark 2 Light is audacious in that it takes courage to say ‘enough is enough,’ and we’re going to take a stand against a growing problem occurring in our own back yard,” Lively said. “DaySpring Villa has developed a real-world solution for adults who have survived what can only be described as atrocities. These are flesh-and-blood human beings who didn’t make the choice to become a victim, but are dedicated to becoming a survivor.”
Sexual Trafficking in Oklahoma
Oklahoma has unwittingly become a primary trade route for sexual trafficking because of three interstate highways that crisscross the country. No longer is this crime limited to internationals who are smuggled into our country. Today, American children are abducted, coerced and threatened into what has become a thriving, yet almost invisible, enterprise.
In 2011, more than 100 phone calls from Oklahoma victims poured into the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline. The fates of these women remain largely unknown. What is clear is that sexual trafficking has left a growing footprint in our communities, and those who have escaped their captors face an uncertain future.
Trafficking rings throughout Oklahoma have become rampant, operating under a cloak of darkness in quiet suburbs, busy truck stops, massage parlors, apartment complexes and motels. Young girls and women are lured into these rings with promises of money, drugs, clothes and travel only to discover they owe a debt that can never be satisfied. They are transported from city to city, state to state, where they are bought and paid for, traded, tortured and sometimes murdered.
“Wilma, I’ve been here 57 days now and the hardest thing is trying to figure out who I am as a human trafficking victim,” said Catherine. “My whole life I’ve been passed around like trash. My mother wouldn’t have cared if they found me dead in a ditch somewhere. My mother sold my freedom for hers. My life has never been my own.”
DaySpring Villa has now received five adult survivors of sexual trafficking. Catherine is one of them. Now age 35, Catherine will require more specialized services than the domestic violence victims DaySpring regularly works with.
Project Dark 2 Light proposes adding those services while expanding the shelter to accommodate 15-17 adult victims of sexual trafficking. DaySpring will offer emergency housing, food and clothing, medical care, counseling, therapy and goals-based programs to literally transform their lives. Their successes with domestic violence survivors, combined with years of invaluable experience, make DaySpring Villa the ideal organization to implement a program for adult victims of sexual trafficking.
“Do you know how hard it is to be free at 35?” Catherine asked. “I’ve never done anything on my own since I was 13. There are a lot of days that I don’t want to get out of bed, but I do because you have faith in me.”
Catherine is tiny in stature and as fragile as paper-thin glass. When socializing with other guests, she often emulates their personality traits because she doesn’t know who she is. Catherine is broken and extraordinarily damaged after years of being trafficked, but she is determined to reclaim her life.
DaySpring Villa has assimilated the staff and knowledge, and put together the policies and protocols to transform the lives of these victims and give them the opportunity to become the persons they were always intended to be.
With your help, Project Dark 2 Light will help DaySpring help them.
“I just wanted you to know that I am scared and this is hard, and no matter how busy I try to keep myself, these memories keep haunting me, because 57 days ago, that’s all I knew, and as sick as this may sound that was my comfort zone,” explained Catherine.
Catherine is not trash. She is a living, breathing, beautiful woman and mother who deserves the opportunity to live freely and discover her potential. DaySpring Villa is working with her to overcome the devastation that cruelly interrupted her life.
DaySpring Villa is now working to raise the funds necessary to expand the facility and add staff and services to transform the lives of Catherine and other adult victims of sexual trafficking. To make a personal contribution to Project Dark 2 Light, visit the website at Dayspringvilla.com. Gifts to the Edna McMillan Oklahoma State Missions Offering will go to help DaySpring Villa’s efforts. Visit the website at bgco.org/smo to learn more about the ministry.
“We have faith,” said Lively. “We have faith in Catherine. And we have faith that you will join us in Project Dark 2 Light to help us help them.”