In this episode of the Red X Podcast, Nicole and Lance speak with Karen Diers the director of Refuge for Women in Las Vegas that provides housing and restoration services for women who are victims of sex trafficking. In the news, a Smallville actress is arrested on human trafficking charges.
Lance tells the story about seeing the movie, Upgrade, a sci-fiction (Lance’s favorite) with his wife, Cheryl. The main character finds out how AI changes his life. A lot of the cars in the movie help date the movie to the near future. Cheryl didn’t enjoy it quite as much as Lance because of some violence. But overall, Lance gives it a thumbs up!
Nicole recounts a trip to DC to meet with NC senators’ reps about Erin Wallin’s proposal for getting higher restitution for child pornography victims. Erin is an attorney in TN and was a guest on the Red X Podcast, episode 009. Nicole and Erin are going back to DC in July to talk to more senators next month.
On this episode’s icebreaker, Lance asks Nicole trivia questions about animals. This taps into Nicole’s area of expertise. How would you do on this matching quiz?
Answers are: Bat, Frog, Elephant, Giraffe, Hippopotamus, Kangaroo, Koala, Ostrich, Sloth
- What animal has fingerprints that look human?
- Which animal can’t jump?
- Which animal can be hypnotized by turning it over and rubbing its belly?
- Which animal takes 2 weeks to digest his dinner?
- Which animal always turns left when it leaves its home?
- Which animal has no vocal chords?
- Which animal has an eyeball bigger than its brain?
- Which animal when in a group is called a “mob”?
- Which animal kills more humans than any other mammal?
In the news– You might know 35 year old Allison Mack as Cloe Sullivan, one of Clark Kent’s best friends on the TV series, Smallville. Or maybe you know her from the Show 7tth Heaven or Disney’s Honey We Shrunk Ourselves. But the actress is probably now most well-known for her arrest on trafficking charges in March of 2018. According to Fox News, Allison Mack was seen running after Keith Raniere as police were pulling him from his $10,000 a week villa in Mexico where the two had been hiding out.
Raniere was a co-founder of the self- help organization NXIVM that many have called a cult. He is accused of holding women as slaves both for sex and labor. Mack is named the primary recruiter of the women. She was nicknamed “Pimp Mack”; Allsion denies allegations. Frank Parlato, a former publicist to NXIVM, it was Mack’s idea to brand the women near the groin area.
Another Smallville actress, Kristin Kreuk has also be accused of recruitment for the organization, but she denies having done so. Kreuk says quote
“When I was about 23, I took an Executive Success Programs/NXIVM ‘intensive,’ what I understood to be a self-help/personal growth course that helped me handle my previous shyness, which is why I continued with the program,” Kreuk wrote on twitter. “I left about five years ago and had minimal contact with those who were still involved.”
Raniere created a system of women using psychological manipulation who were considered masters and other slaves. USA Times says: “Members believed that Raniere could heal them of emotional traumas, set them free from their fears and attachments, clear patterns of destructive thinking. Some believed he could heal them sexually too. An ex-member said quote “This is the white-collar spiritual path,” “You’re on the monk’s path, but you’re not wearing a red robe with a shaved head.”
Mack was apparently one of Raniere’s slaves but also deeply involved in the organization and luring other women into the pyramid scheme. Most of the members were from wealthy families seeking empowerment. Trafficking does not always look like what you expect.
Nicole interviews Karen Diers, the Las Vegas City Director for Refuge for Women. Refuge for Women is a national organization that started almost a decade ago. Karen says it began in KY as aftercare for women who had been victims of human trafficking and the program has spread to various cities around the country and continues to grow. Karen says that human trafficking is not so different than what they see in LV, but that because LV receives so many tourists and is a major hub for trafficking routes, the crime is prevalent in the city. In fact, LV has 7 major trafficking routes and Karen explains that it is “big business” to exploit a woman.
Sadly, the women are treated as resources. While drugs and alcohol can run out, an exploited woman can be sold over and over again. A typical Refuge for Women applicant most often comes to the home through some rescue intervention—either in jail or in a police of FBI operative. Las Vegas is ramping up helping first responders identify victims. Once identified, they can be sent to a shelter for protection from their pimp and be given the basics of what they might need such as protection, food and clothing. Then they can find a restoration home like Refuge for Women so they can recover from trauma. Karen says that most clients are high school graduates, single moms, who have been sexually abused and often think of suicide. A lot of the women have children from their pimps or abusive relationships. A lot of times, the women don’t have the children with them though. They might have been taken away and put in social systems or are living with other family members. Through restoration, mothers and children can be reunited. Karen says “Human trafficking is not partial”. Women of all different backgrounds, with or without children have become trafficked. And traffickers see their victims as reusable commodities. Karen believes that every woman should live her dream. Refuge for Women gives them a chance.
One reason that Refuge for Women is successful is that the city of Las Vegas meets regularly with law enforcement, non-profits, first responders and service providers so that the city can be united in their fight and response to human trafficking. Karen doesn’t believe in reinventing the wheel or doing what another organization is already doing. For example, Refuge for Women focuses on restoration and doesn’t go into the entertainment industry to help women get out—The Cupcake Girls does that and offers the women counseling services and resources.
Nicole asks what does Refuge for Women do to ensure safety? Karen says they take safety seriously for themselves as well as for their clients. Whether or not a trafficking victim stays in LV for restoration or is sent for care outside the state depends on multiple factors. Was she under coercion from someone else? Was her trafficking gang related? The home is kept confidential and the women are watched 24 hours a day 7 days a week. No social media is allowed. Volunteers and staff must agree to confidentiality statements and background checks. Refuge for Women has only had one situation since their inception 9 years ago in which there was a threat to safety. Many times, the trafficker will not pursue a victim once she is in a restoration home because she is viewed as “expendable”—she can be replaced with another victim. But safety is top priority. In fact, Refuge for Women just put a retired law enforcement officer on their Board to advise on best practices for safety.
Nicole asks what advice Karen would you give to another area that would like to replicate what they are doing in LV to combat trafficking? Las Vegas has a mayor’s faith initiative that has helped bring many of the churches on board. Karen says it’s important to just get out and start finding out who’s doing what. It’s like a spider web with a network of providers serving the community’s different needs. It’s doing the work and going out and learning who’s doing what. The process of learning about community needs and resources can begin just with a simple google search. Refuge for Women counts on people having a heart for trafficking victims and wanting to serve them. Nicole says that it was pretty easy to find Refuge for Women because she went to Polaris Project and looked up resources.
In spite of growing number of resources, Karen says there are only 680 beds open for women are done with the “life” in the entire country. If victims are able to go through a program like Refuge for Women, it’s so successful. If survivors do the work of restoration at Refuge for Women for 9 months in the home and then another 3 months of working a job, there is a 95% success rate of women not returning to “the life”. Women go through self care courses, financial education and even some basics like how to do laundry. In one case, Refuge for Women had a girl who had been trafficked for 16 years; she didn’t know how to care for her body or how to keep herself safe. She had others teach her how to cook, how to shop, how to do her budget, how to get a job. Karen says they ask survivors, What do you want to return to? What was your dream and how can you achieve it? Refuge for Women returns women to their dreams.
Restoration at Refuge for Women has three phases. The first is healing and involves psychotherapy ad group therapy. They have to fight hard every day for recovery. They have to deal with the past trauma, sexual abuse, foster care experiences. Many times women were gang raped or have experienced a vulnerability from an early age. Survivors don’t know their power or what a proper relationship looks like. Refuge for Women has to teach women how to rebuild trust. They do so through classes, recovery meetings, relationships and the therapeutic atmosphere.
The second stage is vocational preparation. Women must learn how to maintain life through the tools they’ve been given. Are they going to go back to school or receive additional training?
The third and final stage of restoration is to gain employment. Refuge for Women partners with Dress for Success, which helps them develop their resume, practice interview skills and offers them professional clothes for a job interview.
One woman who completed the program is a great example of success. She had been trafficked for 16 years. Refuge for Women had someone locally that could give her teeth as she was in serious need of dental care. Another person removed her cancerous skin lesions. This woman’s pimp had branded her with his picture as a tattoo, and another service was able to have it removed.
Another woman wanted to be restored to an adult child as well as younger child that had been removed from her and she was reunited. A whole family was restored in this case. It’s not just the heart, body, and mind, but families that receive restoration because of the work of Refuge for Women.
It does take a community for restoration–dentists, doctors, tattoo removal services, mentors, vocational supporters, and more. But it also takes finances to run a home. Refuge for Women requires $400,000 to run a home each year and ensure 24 hour a day staff. Women enter the home with zero cost to them. And the home requires a vibrant and dedicated volunteer base.
Karen says there is nothing more beautiful than to see a woman’s restoration play out. If you support refuge for $100 a month, you can “adopt” a resident. You can send her a birthday card, you’ll know her favorite music, color, and preferences to support her through encouraging letters. Visit www.Rfwlasvegas.org to learn more. The best way is to view the media kit, a one-stop shop for learning statistics, testimonials, seeing an actual house tour, and video. You can also support their upcoming fundraiser at Top Golf. Contact Refuge for Women if you have questions or would like to learn more about upcoming homes that will be opening!
Nicole and Lance reflect on the dearth of beds around the country and the need for more. The needs are intense, but the restoration of a woman can mean restoration of an entire family and a stop in the cycle of exploitation.