In the United States, 100,000 youth are exploited by the commercial sex industry each year, and the average age of victims is 13.
Gracehaven is a Central Ohio faith-based program offering care for exploited juvenile girls. The residential facility for the girls is the second facility in Ohio for sex trafficked minors.
Brooke Pollard, a graduate of Ohio University, studied communications and psychology and for a while, worked in the corporate world. But she began to dream of creating her own house program that helped children who had been sexually abused.
“In my mind, God had given me this vision of a very therapeutic home that would have everything on sight,” Pollard said. “The vision I had was everything God had given me, but was already happening at Gracehaven.”
Gracehaven can hold eight girls, ranging from 13-to-17 years old.
The living room at the Gracehaven residential facility.
The residents receive a safe place to rest, play and learn. The girls are ensured five hours of schooling online during the week and often on weekends take field trips to get outside of the house.
Pollard has worked at Gracehaven since March 2016. She currently serves as the resource coordinator and spends three days a week at the house, teaching a life skills class involving horses.
“It was a Godly timing. I felt a true calling to do this type of work,” Pollard said.
Additional classes offered to the girls include art therapy, a body image and self-esteem class, internet safety and a “boundaries class” that focuses on healthy versus unhealthy relationships. An additional class focuses on sex trafficking called, “My life my choice,” which is written and taught by sex trafficking survivors.
With appropriate training and background checks, community volunteers also teach. One volunteer is giving the girls piano lessons.
Because the organization is faith based, Bible study and church services are part of the curriculum.
“Looking back, I wish I would’ve gone into social work so I could help more [children] as a counselor,” Pollard said. “It wasn’t until Gracehaven I realized [how severe] human trafficking [was in Ohio].”
Gracehaven effectively cares for the victims through a broad approach, focusing on prevention education, community collaborations, intervention training and survivor care and support.
Since 2011, Gracehaven has given awareness training to several thousand Central Ohio schools in the Columbus, Dublin, Upper Arlington and Delaware County.
In 2016, 4,208 teens in school, churches and community groups received prevention education through Gracehaven’s outreach programs, according to the website.
“Gravehaven’s programs are designed to effectively meet the needs of everyone impacted by human trafficking – from high school students learning about it, to first responders and professionals who interact with those who may be affected, to victims who’ve experienced it firsthand,” according to the website.