What's Happening


We can end this global scourge of sex trafficking. It’s why Uncaged exists. To make this vision real, we need abolitionists across the world who can recognize a survivor and get her to safety. We need guardians who can prevent human trafficking before these precious women and children are swept away!

We are proud to share that we are already working to activate a global network of freedom fighters. You may remember that we are partnering with dozens of anti-trafficking organizations across Europe. Together, we are advancing policies that will protect and restore survivors.

These big coalitions are key to our mission. We also know that every single individual has a part to play. Real people like you and me can make an enormous difference. We need to find and equip these on-the-ground freedom fighters.

So that’s exactly what we’re doing at the first Sanctuary! Just a few weeks ago, we hosted our first Freedom Summit at the property. Together with our Europe Director, 30 people gathered to create an anti-trafficking strategy for all of Europe. They even identified an alliance of Romanians who want to end trafficking and are already positioned throughout the continent. This alliance includes businessmen and women, professors, social workers, and experts from all walks of life.

The best part: the Freedom Summit attendees already have relationships with this alliance. They just need to coordinate with them to locate even more Romanian survivors.

One woman who joined the summit said, “I know so many people that are involved in networks for selling beauty products, foods, electronics and everything else. Why not make a network for taking care of people and their precious destinies? We need to gather around this vision and make it possible for as many people to receive the care and love they need.”

We couldn’t have said it better than this powerful abolitionist. While the travel bans are in place, survivors are stuck where they are. This means more suffering, but it also means we have a unique opportunity. We can locate survivors without worrying that they will disappear across borders.

Let’s seize this opportunity! We have already identified 58 survivors who are safe and waiting to come to the Sanctuary. Now, we are growing an army who can find even more survivors so we can finally bring them to safety.

Your support and encouragement makes it possible for us to equip freedom fighters. Let’s keep building this movement so we can identify hundreds, even thousands of survivors.

10 views0 comments

Hi Friends,

We are ready to receive close to 100 survivors at the first Sanctuary this year! As we get closer to hosting survivors on-site, we wanted to give you an inside look at some of the ways our expert team unlocks transformation. You may remember that we hosted a powerful pilot retreat back in November for 9 survivors. It was an incredible taste of what is to come! A survivor came to us and said, “I’ve been to many retreats, but this is one of the best I’ve ever attended. I found deep healing in a whole new way that I didn’t expect.” Wow!

We are humbled to be pioneering new ways to help survivors experience total restoration! One of our innovations is using neuroscience alongside evidence-based psychotherapy. We sat down with our International Program Director, Dr. Vanessa Snyder, to learn more about how it works. Take a look at our conversation below.

Uncaged: Thank you so much for taking the time to be with us today, Dr. Snyder. A lot of people have been asking us: what actually happens when you meet with a survivor who has just been freed from a trafficking situation. Can you give us an overview of the process?

Dr. Snyder: Well, of course it varies widely depending on the individual and the situation. Broadly, we spend the first meeting and 4-6 weeks in triage. We need to understand the survivors’ unique situation and experience. We spend those weeks assessing their medical needs, spiritual needs, emotional needs, physical needs -- basically all possible areas where a survivor might need support and healing. Then, we craft an individual plan just for that survivor.

Uncaged: There are so many different elements of healing to consider! Can you tell us a little bit about how neuroscience fits into those first few weeks?

Dr. Snyder: The model we’re incorporating uses something called neurofeedback, specifically brain mapping, and it’s one of the ways we understand the unique needs each survivor has. Basically, we use a visualization of brain waves to understand which parts of the brain are most active and what kinds of brain activity is going on there. These “maps” can give us clues into the neurological experience of a survivor.

Uncaged: Could you tell us a little more about what you might look for?

Dr. Snyder: Of course. Some studies show that brains that have experienced chronic trauma function differently than brains that have not endured chronic trauma. One example is that we know certain areas of the brain are in charge of processing emotions like fear and anxiety. When these parts of the brain are in overdrive, it’s not uncommon for other parts of the brain, especially ones associated with decision-making and high-level thinking, to not function as well. The human brain that experiences trauma will also show different patterns of brain waves than typical brains. This is one way to see the neurological effects of trauma.

Uncaged: It’s incredible and tragic to think that trauma can leave that deep of an impression on a survivor’s physical body. That even their brain would change and function differently.

Dr. Snyder: Absolutely, but it’s also very hopeful and impressive. It tells us that survivors have adapted to...survive. The brain is an amazing organ, and what we see after treatment and over time on the brain map is the brain’s ability to respond adaptively over time. Not only did the brain do what it needed to survive, it also adapts to recover from trauma.

Uncaged: Thank you for reframing it that way - it brings so much hope! Tell us a little bit about how you and the team are using brain therapies for the Sanctuary model.

Dr. Snyder: Well of course everything we do with survivors to process the trauma of trafficking is designed to help the brain rewire. But we also know that a lot of our survivors have lived with trauma their whole lives. Their brains have never even learned how to function in an environment without trauma. For these survivors, we will use neurofeedback to actually teach or retrain the brain to function in a safe, stable situation.

Uncaged: That’s such an important insight - the reality that some survivors have only ever known trauma. Could you explain how neurofeedback helps the brain learn to operate without trauma?

Dr. Snyder: Sure. Of course, it’s often tailored to the survivor as well. The general idea is that we have the survivor sit in a comfortable environment, and then we monitor her brain activity with sensors. When the brain behaves in a “positive” or “normal” way, we immediately give positive feedback signals to the brain itself via those sensors. What this does is encourage the brain to continue behaving in the ways that get rewarded. This is how we show the brain a new path for functioning that it may never have created before.

Uncaged: So it’s essentially training the brain to behave differently.

Dr. Snyder: That’s close. An even more accurate way of saying it would be that neurofeedback shows the brain a new way of behaving that it may never have seen before - almost like opening a door to a new room. Remember, most trafficking survivors have lived with trauma their whole lives. Their brain may never have learned how to operate without trauma. We’re teaching the brain how to do that so it has the option to function without a trauma response. Our other work with survivors, like group counseling, equine-assisted therapy, and art therapy, will actually teach survivors how to direct their brains to recognize that they’re safe.

Uncaged: Got it. What you’re doing is highlighting the importance of a holistic approach. If we’re hearing you right, neurofeedback works best when it’s happening a lot of other healing work.

Dr. Snyder: Absolutely. That’s why what’s going to happen at the Sanctuary is so important. It’s one of the only models that combines every facet of a survivors’ journey and equips them to heal. I really cannot wait to get our doors open, because we’re ready and we are going to see a massive impact.

Uncaged: Amen! We cannot wait for these Covid-19 travel bans to lift in Europe. Are there any final thoughts you’d like to share with our fellow freedom fighters?

Dr. Snyder: Only that our retreat in November showed me what a good experience these survivors are going to have. It was even more restorative for the 9 women who attended than I ever imagined. You need to know that we are truly pioneering a model that’s desperately needed in the anti-trafficking world.

Uncaged: Those are powerful words. We are so grateful to have you on our team. Let’s see this vision of healing break forth!

21 views0 comments

Dear Friends,

As we move into this new year, I’ve been thinking about what it means to have a “pioneering spirit.” This phrase dropped into my heart in a unique way. I haven’t been able to get it off my mind since.

It takes us back hundreds of years to the pioneers. They set out on a great unknown journey. They didn’t know the details of their path, they just knew they were driven towards something new, something better. They knew it was risky. They would face great hardship like unyielding weather, sickness, and injury. Still, they were willing to endure it all for the promise of a new and better way of life. Hope and vision kept them going.

As we have launched Uncaged, we have felt that pioneering spirit rising up within us. We don’t know the details of the journey, but we know that there is a new horizon just up ahead.... one that brings rescue, restoration, hope, healing, and transformation into the lives of trafficking survivors.

We are doing something new and different. We are creating a holistic, wraparound approach to healing that is scalable and transferable.

By scalable I mean, “Let’s ramp this thing up!” We have 48 million people being trafficked in our world today. 48 million!

It’s obvious to me that we need a big solution for a big problem. We have to dig deep to affect the broken bodies, minds, and spirits of these precious souls. We have to provide a customized approach for each survivor. And I am thrilled to say that we have the framework and trauma-informed tools to do this. Our model is able to reach thousands of survivors AND prioritize customized care for each survivor. It’s an innovation in this work that we couldn’t be more proud of.

As for transferable, what I mean is that we know that trafficking is a global scourge. Our model must unlock transformation in any country and culture. We believe we have the tools to make that happen as well. By working with expert nationals in each country, we can adapt the model to suit the needs of various regions and populations.

We are doing something bold, new… and slightly intimidating. This hasn’t been done before. The Sanctuary model has the ability to effectively and efficiently cocoon survivors, healing each one through trauma-informed, evidence-based therapies that will restore them almost entirely.

It’s not quick. It’s not inexpensive. But we know it is worth the hardship, the risk, and the endurance when we look into the eyes of a woman or child and see joy, hope & transformation. There’s no greater joy than watching the fire return to a survivor, like when Mihaela learned how to dream again.

We are about to open the doors of The Sanctuary in Romania. Then, we cannot wait to journey on to the next destination... and the one after that... and the one after that! Let’s take this around the world!

Thanks for joining our pioneering journey. We couldn’t do it without you!


Kim Westfall

32 views0 comments