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  • Writer's pictureKim Westfall, Founder

Point of View: A Survivor Arrives at The Sanctuary

What came before this is unimaginable. A victim of human trafficking approaches a car, looking back over the days, months, or years she is leaving behind. She is moving onto another place but the trauma she has endured stays with her. Perhaps she carries the physical bruises on her body, like Tamara who had black eyes, a fractured jaw and cheekbone, broken ribs, and internal bleeding when she recently escaped from her trafficker. She most certainly carries the mental, emotional, and spiritual scars that a life of slavery and dehumanization will leave on her.

She doesn’t know what home or family looks like, but she hopes to. She longs for a place to be safe.

The Uncaged team has been instructed on what to say to her to help her feel cared for from the moment she steps into their presence. She steps into the car, accompanied by staff who have been trained in trauma-informed practices. Gentle music plays on the radio as she watches the landscape change. The tree-lined road bends toward a barricade that lets her know she is protected inside the walls erected just for her.

The gate swings open to reveal orchards, the fruit hanging on the limbs in early spring. She drives past the new pony standing next to his mother and watches the dogs play in the yard. She sees quaint cabins, a swing, a pool, flowers blooming, and a garden lovingly tended. The first survivor who arrived on the property saw the roses covering an archway and gasped, “All these roses are for me.”

Staff approaches the car with a snack and a warm drink. They greet her and guide her toward one of the cozy cabins and tell her, “Welcome home.” They hand her a bag filled with a robe, slippers, toiletries items, and a journal. It is all hers.

She tells the staff the same thing the girl before her said: “I don’t deserve this.” She keeps saying, “I can never repay you for this.” The thing is, she can’t imagine someone gifting her anything. The life she left behind came with the condition of always being in debt. She had to pay for everything she had with her body. Her trafficker, her clients—they only took from her. She couldn’t even imagine a warm bed, regular meals, or a safe place. A free gift is not something she understands—yet.

She will settle into her room feeling protected, knowing she has gentle supervision 24 hours a day. Now she needs time to rest, to begin to heal and feel safe. The first concern that will be met is her physical well-being. She will receive any medical care she needs in the coming days and time to recuperate. Her new life is just beginning!

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