By Sheri Webber
Freedom is often something taken for granted in America today. That is, until face to face with someone whose freedom was snatched away.
Her Song, a regional nonprofit dedicated to the rescue of human trafficking victims, has joined forces with Jacksonville University (JU). Through a campus-wide collection effort, the JU community makes a difference on Florida’s First Coast.
During the month of March, “Support Her” bins across campus will be ready for donations. All items collected this month will support Her Song’s local safehouse. The following items are welcome:
- Non-perishable pantry foods
- Paper towels
- Toilet paper
- Feminine products
- Large or X-Large Women’s Underwear
Florida ranks in the top three U.S. states for human trafficking, a $150 billion dollar worldwide industry. After illegal drug trade, it is the second highest criminal activity statewide. Over the last six years, Her Song has rescued more than 500 women. They suffered inconceivable abuse, forced prostitution, drug addiction, and emotional trauma.
In the shadows of America’s hyper-sexualized culture, many lives have become a commodity sold and traded. The demand of the trafficking market impacts impoverished people most. Desperate to survive, women and girls are manipulated and controlled by others for profit. The latest research shows that approximately 40 million people live in this modern-day slavery. For every 10 victims, seven are women.
“Hope is rising from a place called Freedom Cottage.”
Fall 2017, Her Song opened its first comprehensive residential safe house in Northeast Florida. Survivors find refuge there, within Duval County limits. The cottage, purchased by Her Song, was renovated and decorated by community volunteers. It operates 24/7 through charitable support. Local collection drives, like JU’s “Support Her” initiative, offset the daily costs of running Freedom Cottage.
Women can stay up to two years while they build toward independence. During that time, women receive counseling, career services, and educational assistance. Victim care has three phases: rest, recovery, and reintegration. Her Song staff teach healthy living, workforce readiness, relationship building, and other skills. All in support of each woman’s journey to wholeness.
Through strategic partnerships with JU, community volunteers, area churches, and law enforcement, Her Song offers a fresh start.
As Founder, Rachel White, LMHC, leads Her Song recovery programs. “The average person cannot imagine the crimes committed against these young ladies,” she said. “But Freedom Cottage is a place of hope. We’ve already seen incredible success.”
Her Song is working toward opening more residential care homes in the future. To get involved, place donations of designated items in the bins around campus.
Visit www.hersongjax.org for more information about victim outreach, survivor care, and community awareness.