In the Know: A Suvivor’s Perspective
Are you making these 7 mistakes in your safe home?Lessons from a Safe Home Consultant
By: Rebecca Bender
1. Choose Your Board Wisely. This isn’t a best friend get together. You don’t want people that will just rubber-stamp every idea you have. Their job is governance and donor relations. Look for people in your community who will be able to use their abilities on your board: accountants, lawyers, former Rotary president, business people, pastors and survivor leaders.
2. Survivor Leadership. Survivor leadership is needed in any organization! Look at credibility; read her work; take references and past work into account. Survivors bring insight to situations that you may not even recognize. We also need to have a representative voice, someone that not only has experience, but who has been able to analyze and reflect upon it. Survivors in leadership, executive and board decision-making positions provide role models for newer survivors to see how life can be and how their voice can be valuable. I’ve personally had the opportunity to fix policies/documents/etc. for NGOs such as: questions on applications, verbiage used in outreach, impression of certain look and feel of materials/homes, class curriculum, staff hiring and training and policies that are specific to sex trafficking victims. While these items had been created by smart people with good intentions, tweaks needed to be made to be sensitive to the survivors they would be working with. Hire survivors for consulting or for paid positions as peer mentor or director. If you are really about empowering and creating less poverty for victims, it is important to start in your own organization.
Why is this so important? Think of it like this: If you were a major for-profit corporation about to go to Japan for a major contract, you would hire a consultant to teach those going to the other country about the culture, i.e., how to shake hands so not to offend, certain words that shouldn’t be said. Training and insight to become culturally competent ensures a better success rate. While getting training on trauma informed care is crucial, learning the culture is equally as important.
3. Get Disciplined. Being the founder of a safe home takes discipline. Discipline with your own personal boundaries — work and family. Discipline with the finances and funding — I’m not talking about negligence like buying homes without your board’s approval. I’m talking about “are the extra brochures on Vista print really necessary today?” Can you find a cheaper flight if you fly into a city a bit earlier or later, even if it isn’t your ideal itinerary? Does the home really need a $200 clock above the mantle, or can you find one for $50 on sale so that your office can get a printer too.
4. Be Patient. We can’t rush development; we can’t rush the team being built; and we can’t rush getting women or children into the home if they aren’t ready or if your home isn’t the best fit for them. It is hard not to look around at other organizations and other homes and not make comparisons to your work or to your passion. But give yourself some time to grow and develop. Giving a five year old a motorcycle is dangerous; dropping a nine year old off at college is setting him or her up for failure. Just because we see the potential and future possibilities doesn’t mean we rush to it. Learn to be content in the natural growth of maturity and progression of your organization.
5. Find Your Lane and STAY IN YOUR LANE. Sometimes our passion is also our nemesis. We want to help people, and that’s why we’re doing this. But, we can’t do everything. Doors that open can sometimes stretch you too thin. Look at your mission and vision and ask yourself, “IS THIS OPEN DOOR HELPING ME REACH THIS MISSION?” If you get too crazy going every which way, i.e., prevention classes, awareness events, trainings and safe homes, you’ll cause a crash on the anti-trafficking highway. Collaboration is key here. Meet monthly with other organizations in your state doing this work and see what their lane is. Give each other the respect to occasionally come in and out of your lane, but focus on staying in your lane and doing it well.
6. Pick Your Passion. Choose the type of program you and your board are happy and passionate about. There are many different styles of safe homes: boot camp style, faith based, weekly schedule, more flexibility with pursuing outside goals, outsourcing counseling or keeping it in house. Whatever you decide on, invest in your own learning (visit other homes like yours and get a consultant or go to conferences that train on this specific style). There are so many options and varieties and styles out there. Often people ask what is “best.” What is best is what is best for the individual. Many flavors of safe homes provide options for the varying styles of personalities, types of trafficking, age, upbringing, safety precautions if the person is awaiting grand jury testimony, etc. If a survivor isn’t working out well in your facility, that is ok! Help find another safe home that works well for their needs; DON’T change your program for each resident.
7. Don’t Vent Down. Women, men and children that have been involved in sex trafficking are amazing people with talents, abilities and gifts that make them far more than their story. They have potential to go and do and be anything they put their mind to, because they’re strong and brave and resilient. However, they are not in a place in their healing to hear your junk. Don’t invite them to board meetings where hard topics have to be discussed. Don’t share your frustrations with the staff or home director. The residents still have to abide by the rules and oversights of the very person you may be in disagreement with. It is sad that this even had to make the list, but it happens far too often. A roll of the eyes, an attitude shift … survivors can read people! Don’t make them pick sides or not listen to someone unintentionally. Let them focus on their own healing, not yours.
For more insights, webinars or consulting, visit Rebecca’s Blog at www.rebeccabender.org