Junior League of SB Opens County’s First Therapeutic Rehabilitative Shelter for Child Survivors of Commercial Sexual Exploitation
Back in March 2017, the Junior League of Santa Barbara (JLSB) announced their signature project, S.A.F.E. House, an initiative to develop Santa Barbara County’s first safe house for young female victims of commercial sexual exploitation. Over the course of a year and a half, JLSB raised over $185,000 and are proud to announce the opening of the county’s first therapeutic rehabilitative shelter for child survivors of commercial sexual exploitation. This extraordinary feat was accomplished through months of hard work and JLSB’s partnership with 4 Kids 2 Kids, a Ventura-based nonprofit with a successful rehabilitation plan for adolescent victims of sexual commercial exploitation and sexual abuse trauma. S.A.F.E., short for “saving at-risk youth from exploitation,” is a 6-bed short-term residential therapeutic program (STRTP) designed to meet the specific needs of these young girls by providing trauma-informed therapy and safe housing.
JLSB’s signature project was born out of the need for more shelters in central California. Shockingly, Santa Barbara is a hub for human trafficking, posing a threat to at-risk youth. Fosters, runaways, and homeless are especially vulnerable to commercial sex trafficking. On average, an average of 8 children may be sexually trafficked per day in Santa Barbara County. Lack of housing and community awareness leads to a lack of shelters, which constantly forces safe homes to turn away victims seeking shelter. Without proper care and treatment in a safe and loving shelter, many victims return to their pimp.
According to Kris Hart, founder of 4 Kids 2 Kids, “Every child has the right to feel safe, to feel loved, to feel nurtured, and to feel respected. Everyone has the right to feel like they matter.” Although sex trafficking has been a major problem throughout the U.S. for a countless number of years, there are only 100 shelter beds in the country for adolescent children. With only 18 of these beds in the state of California, S.A.F.E. plays a significant role in the fight against sex trafficking. Over the course of the next couple of months, JLSB will be launching a community-wide awareness campaign in hopes to educate the public on issues of local sex trafficking, how to recognize and identify potential warning signs, and action steps to take if a case is suspected.
JLSB is an organization of women committed to improving the community and empowering females through acts of volunteerism. Santa Barbara District Attorney, Joyce Dudley, commends the efforts of JLSB, saying, “One of the extraordinary things about Junior League is how relevant they are, how they get out on that ledge. They take that risk, and they make differences that are important to our community now.”
To support continuing S.A.F.E. House needs, consider donating online at here or reaching out directly to the League’s president, Kielle Horton at President@JLSantaBarbara.org. For more information about the Junior League of Santa Barbara or the S.A.F.E. House, please call 805/963-2704 or visit their website here.