District Attorney Jim Martin Announces Attendance at Training and To Study Program Which Aids Victims of Human Trafficking
In an effort to combat human trafficking in Lehigh County and aid its victims, a team compiled by District Attorney Jim Martin was in Nashville from August 25 to 27 to study a program designed to help survivors of human trafficking: Thistle Farms. A generous grant from the Dorothy Rider Pool Trust was given to Martin to cover the expenses involved in this trip.
The funds allowed representatives from AEquitas, a prosecutor’s resource; Lehigh Valley Health Network; Lehigh Valley Conference of Churches; and members of the District Attorney’s staff to attend. Attendees from Lehigh Valley Health Network included Nani Cuadrado, who works in Street Medicine; Samantha Shaak, who is in the Department of Community Health; and Michele Rice, who is in the Emergency Department. In addition, Jennifer Long from AEquitas; Henry Moore from the Lehigh Valley Conference of Churches’ Lazarus House; Julia Kocis, Director of the Regional Intelligence and Investigation Center; Deputy District Attorney Robert Schopf; and Mr. Martin were able to attend thanks to the Pool Trust grant.
Also, in the Lehigh County group were three women who are associated with Truth for Women. Truth for Women is a local nonprofit organization that provides emergency shelter, stabilization and healthcare services for survivors who are rescued from sex trafficking in the Lehigh Valley. The organization was represented by Nicole Somerville, who is director of Truth Home, and two board members, Maureen O’Meara and Sally Slifer Ryan. The Truth for Women representatives covered their own travel expenses.
The time in Nashville was comprised of seminars and site visits as well as a personal group meeting with the founder of Thistle Farms, Becca Stevens. Rev. Becca Stevens is an author, speaker, Episcopal priest, social entrepreneur, founder and president of Thistle Farms. In 1997, she founded Thistle Farms to heal, empower, and employ female survivors of human trafficking, prostitution, and addiction.
The Thistle Farms recovery model is a two-year program which includes the following:
- Free long-term housing without a live-in staff or monitor
- Free, comprehensive mental and physical healthcare
- Free job training and/or continued education that connects survivors to a sustainable income.
The Lehigh County team was able to observe and acquire information from this facility and the network of sister organizations which have developed from it. The site visit to Thistle Farms provided insights into the program structure, costs, and the ability to craft connections for a more seamless recovery process. For example, Thistle Farms has various businesses associated with it which help defray its operating expenses. These businesses also provide jobs for the women who are taking part in its two-year program.
While the Thistle Farms program runs for two years for its participants, many are able to stay on with Thistle Farms as employees/volunteers. The team met with a survivor who has been with Thistle Farms for 14 years and has maintained her sobriety, formed a healthy family relationship of her own, and is a spokesperson who guides and educates visitors to Thistle Farms.
“The time spent at Thistle Farms was inspiring. I think all the members of our group who spent time there came away with renewed desire to help those caught up in human trafficking and with new ideas on how to assist them. I know I did,” said Martin.
“I want to thank the Dorothy Rider Pool Trust for allowing us the opportunity to go to Thistle Farms and experience the great work that is going on there,” he added.