Many people don’t know Muskogee is home to a residential facility designed to care for adolescent girls who have been victims of sex trafficking and sexual exploitation. The facility, named Restoring Identities after Sexual Exploitation (RISE), is a public charity that operates on grants and donations, including donations from its founder and executive director, Keri Spencer, J.D.
“The average life span for children” who have been victims of sex trafficking “is three to seven years,” Spencer said. “These children, who are suffering through having people pay to rape them daily, experience PTSD similar to combat veterans — along with myriad other mental and physical health problems. Oftentimes, they have no safe place to go once they’re recovered from their traffickers.”
RISE provides that place in Muskogee, where girls between 13 and 17 1/2 can live until their 19th birthdays while receiving individualized, comprehensive services designed to restore them as close to normalcy as possible.
“Our services focus on mental health and behavioral health, substance use and abuse, education, life skills, independent living skills, and loving the girls in a judgment-free space so that they can heal from the traumas they have endured,” Spencer said. The facility currently has six beds with plans for expansion as funding becomes available. Five of the six beds are currently full, with residents from 15 to 17 years old. “We are staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week with awake staff trained in trauma-informed, victim-centered care.”
Four of the facility’s staffers are also adult survivors of sex trafficking and sexual exploitation.
The home is funded through grants and partnerships with private donors and organizations. Funding is not as robust as it needs be, meaning the home’s board of directors and founders are using some of their own money to make ends meet at the facility, which costs upwards of $25,000 per month to run.
To that end, the Gee Gals, a Muskogee group of women involved in uplifting and upholding other women, have planned a Holiday Market Gala on Dec. 8 to benefit the group. For more information or to donate to the home, visit the group’s web site.