Every month, we choose one organization to highlight and support through our Split Shot program. This May, we chose Twelve 11 Partners, a new collaborative organization creating a community of support for individuals who have overcome trafficking or exploitation. A 2nd Cup Founder and Executive Director, Erica Raggett, speaks with Kathy McGibbon Givens, Founder and Executive Director of Twelve 11 Partners and Board Member Gaby Rojas about the work they do.
Erica: Hi, I’m Erica Raggett, Founder and Executive Director of A 2nd Cup. One of the priorities of our organization is to collaborate and support partners in this work to end human trafficking. One of the ways that we do that is by choosing an organization each month to highlight and support financially with proceeds from our split shot drink of the month. This may we have chosen Twelve 11 Partners. This is a fantastic organization we love and greatly value their work and partnership and we would love for you all to hear a little bit more about what they do.
I’m joined here today by Kathy McGibbon Givens. She is the Founder and Executive Director, and Gabby Rojas, who is a board member at Twelve 11, to hear a bit more about the vital work that they do. So, Kathy and Gabby. Thank you so much for joining me today.
I would love to have you start by giving us an overview of the work that you do at Twelve 11.
Kathy: Sure, so we offer…literally, we we exist to walk alongside overcomers of trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation. So, what we focus on is really the post restorative care. These are individuals that have gone through programs or individuals that may not necessarily fit in a program, right, or choose not to go through a program. We want to partner with, we created this beautiful program where we’re partnering with individuals and walking alongside with them so that we can be with them on their journey from, as Gabby said, you know surviving to thriving, right? So, from surviving to overcomers. And we do that through mentorship, which is the heart of our program, the heart of our organization, career path development and housing referrals.
Erica: That’s awesome, I love that you guys are kind of this long-term community for individuals as they’re journeying along. Kathy, I would love to hear about what led you to start this organization.
Kathy: You know, I have been blessed to be able to walk alongside some amazing partners since in my own journey of overcoming and since diving into this anti-trafficking space, I’ve been able to just observe the landscape. Again, just building partnerships, working with wonderful partners again like yourself, and just figuring out, okay, where are some gaps right? Because there’s always going to be gaps, because this problem is so complex.
In that kind of observation period for me, I was also getting phone calls from individuals that I mentor, or individuals that I’ve been walking alongside for years, you know? And these are calls from women that have graduated programs, residential programs, right? So, they’ve done their 18 months or however long it took them. They you know, we said congratulations, they did it. They’ve learned the skills and all of that. I was getting phone calls from these women, especially in the height of the pandemic, saying, you know, I don’t have any other option. I’m gonna go back and do this because I can’t like, I just can’t like, you know I have no other options. And so those phone calls were increasing, from women that were, if they didn’t return to the life, they were definitely at risk of being re-exploited.
And I just couldn’t for the life of me figure out. OK, well, you’ve gone through programs. We did this. You graduated, you have this support system and you’ve learned all of these skills. Why is it two years, three years down the line that you’re returning, you know, to that same mindset or that same predicament?
So, gathered a bunch of overcomers together to talk about it and figure out – okay, how do you fill this gap? What is this? What’s happening? And the number one thing that we heard was community. So, people didn’t have community to do life with. Even though they were successfully leaving these programs and learning all these skills, there was no one there or nothing there to help them apply these skills, right, in the real world. It’s kind of like getting a degree of some sort. You go through school and you’re like, okay, I’ve learned. And then you get out into the workforce and you’re just like, well, what do I do? Like, you know, so that was the thing that we were finding.
And, you know, that just kind of propelled this mission to fill that gap and help individuals walk alongside individuals for that continuum of care. Just to help reduce their chances of being re exploited.
Erica: Yeah, it’s so cool. I mean, the fact that you were using data, both quantitative and qualitative, and the conversations and really listening to what the needs were and identifying those gaps is, I think so, so wise. Gabby, can you tell us what drew you to this organization and why you chose to serve on the board?
Gaby: Well, I was approached by Kathy a few years after my journey started. And so I kind of fit into the little slice that I didn’t go into a restorative care program. I had an incredible support system at home, but I stumbled a lot. And there were areas that I was like – okay, well, how do I fix my credit and how do I sign back up for school? And even though I had the resources available to me, it was hard to figure out. You kind of feel like you’re being pulled in all these different directions. And so, when Kathy was like I want to make it to where they just go to one place and we can help them figure it out and that’s it, it kind of struck. It was like, man I needed that at one point. And so it really drew me to the fact that we can be that for somebody else in the future. It kind of tied into that quote that – be who you needed when you were younger. Because I would have loved this organization when I was going through this.
Erica: Yeah definitely. What a beautiful, beautiful program you have created. You were working a lot with overcomers. What do you observe as some of their biggest barriers they’re facing right now.
Kathy: I would say some, of course, lack of community, right? Not just being isolated and feeling like you have to do this journey alone, right? And that you have to walk alone. But some of the more practical things is stuff like transportation, right. Childcare is huge. Getting access to sustainable and equitable employment. Not just something to pay your bills where you’re always behind, but literally like equitable employment that will lead you into financial freedom. That’s a barrier. When we talk about like lack of credit and then, you know, criminal history and stuff like that. It’s really hard to thrive. So even after you’ve graduated programs, it’s like okay, go be great. But then you look at all these things that are stopping you and you’re like, like how? Right? Like how do I, you know, how do I get that wonderful job with this thing on my record? Or how do I get that that wonderful job or that wonderful house with you know a lack of credit and lack of employment history and stuff like that.
Transportation I can tell you has been popping up in the last few weeks tremendously because even when they are connected to those jobs, they don’t have a way to get to them, right? And so, we have figured out very quickly that in our mentorship program, we have to address those needs right? We have to address basic needs in order to build relationships and in order to like – Okay, now that we’ve addressed your basic needs, now we can work on goal setting and like figuring out where you want to go in life, right? So, it’s all connected, but I would say that those are some of the biggest barriers that I’ve seen.
Erica: Yeah. Those are significant, you know. And if you…like, one of those is hard, but adding you know multiple. Yeah, that’s really, really tough.
So, there are a lot of misconceptions and misunderstandings about human trafficking, especially I feel like, just like recently there have been things cropping up that are just, you know, misinformation. Can you speak to some of those bigger myths. And also kind of share your thoughts on how people can learn accurate information and be productive allies in this fight?
Kathy: Yeah, you know this is interesting that you’re asking this question because we just, I’m working with some other amazing overcomers and survivor leaders to kind of address some of these questions and some of these misconceptions. I would say like one of the biggest misconceptions right now, is, you know there’s a question – why don’t they just leave, right? If it’s not physical bondage or physical captivity, you know, they’re not being locked in a cell and you know stored away or whatever (though we know that it’s very, very true). People are having a hard time with psychological bondage. They’re having a very hard time understanding psychological, captivity, right? And so, that is one of the things that is like swirling right now. It’s like, well, people can leave if they’re not being physically held. That is not true, right? Because I saw a quote not too long ago that said, you know, psychological chains are way harder to break than the physical ones because of the brainwashing and the manipulation and all that.
Another one would be that trafficking happens to strangers, right? So, it’s usually somebody that you don’t know. Or you know, we can get abducted and walking down the street and somebody just takes us away. Or, you know, things like that. Again, I don’t do not want to kind of like water down the fact that that happens to individuals. That’s real life. But nine times out of 10, you know, traffickers build trust and a bond with their victims, and so it’s usually someone that you’ve trusted. It’s usually someone that you know and that you’re saying – okay, you’re a friend or boyfriend or whatever the case may be, but I trust you. That’s usually how it happens. So those are for me. Those are the two big ones. And then obviously that it happens to males as well as it does females. I always use the phrase that trafficking does not discriminate. It targets vulnerabilities, not necessarily people. But it targets vulnerabilities and I think we can all attest that we’ve all been vulnerable at one point at one point or another.
So those are the three big ones. And the list goes on, right? But for reliable information I would say always point back to the source, making sure that the source is credible. So, if you see something on social media, if you see something in media or whatever that’s posted, don’t just be quick to like, repost it or start sharing that information. But you really want to do some research. Where did this source come from? And is this source credible? One thing that I would say would be the TIP (Trafficking In Persons) office, right? That’s going to be pretty reliable information because they kind of have to be, right. They have to be held accountable to that. But some other really reputable organizations that do the research and their strength is in research. If your strength, if you’re an agency and your strength is not in research, then you shouldn’t be so quick to put stuff out, right. But I would rely on those who are actually research based. I would say Polaris has pretty good numbers as well because they’ve taken the time to gather that. But I would always [go back to] the TIP office, right. I would always go back to the agencies and where does it come from. So, that would be like my little nugget of advice to people that kind of want to make sure that the information that they’re sharing is credible.
Erica: Yeah, awesome. So, you know, when we utilize our shop to raise awareness and people come in all the time and get really passionate about this issue and want to get involved. What are the top one or two things you would say to someone who wants to engage in this work?
Kathy: I’ll let Gaby go next, but for me I would say that there’s a place for everyone in this. It’s daunting, it’s big, it’s oh my gosh, it’s trafficking. You know, over time, trafficking has been somewhat glamorized, right? But it’s also very daunting, like it’s like – I don’t want to get involved in that, so that’s not my thing. But there’s a place for everyone. I would encourage people that whatever you’re good at and whatever you have a passion about, now, that’s what you bring to this. And you say – hey, I can offer this to individuals. Because we’re talking about human lives, right? We’re not talking about something super crazy. We’re literally just talking about helping individuals. So, there’s a place for everyone.
Number two would be that this is not a glamour gig, right? This is not something that you can get into and for a little bit and test the waters and then get out. No, these are, again we’re talking about human lives. We’re talking about people that are affected every single day by this. So, you know, if you want to jump in to be a savior or whatever the case may be, this is pretty much not the lane for that. But if you want to get in and you really want to see people’s lives changed, I would welcome anyone for sure.
Gaby: So, kind of piggy backing off of that, as far as being passionate about it. Not just kind of going off of it on a whim. Like Kathy said it is very daunting. It is very…it carries a lot of weight working in this field. And there is not really any place that’s too small. If all you can offer is – I know how to make a few dishes really, really well. I can teach you how to make them so that you can make home cooked meals, and they’re healthy. Or you need a way to get to work. I can show you how to drive so you can take your driver’s license test. There’s nothing too small that wouldn’t benefit somebody at some point in one of these organizations.
Erica: Well is there anything else either of you would like to share?
Kathy: I just want to say thank you to A 2nd Cup. You know, Twelve 11 believes in the spirit of collaboration. Hence Twelve 11 Partners, right? We can’t do our work without partnerships. It’s impossible. Even as overcomers, I don’t have the answers to solve this problem. There’s no way, it’s so big. But with us working together we can find those solutions, right? I want to encourage everyone in this space or anyone that’s thinking about getting in this space, Twelve 11 is here to be a partner and to collaborate with everyone who is trying to create impact and change lives. So, thank you so much for this platform. I appreciate it.
Erica: Yeah, of course. Well, thank you both so much for spending a few minutes talking with me about what you do, but also the work that you’re doing on the ground and working with individuals and surrounding them with love and community. I think it’s just really, really beautiful. So, thank you.
To get involved and find out more about Twelve 11 Partners visit their website at: https://www.twelve11.org/
Trafficking in Persons Report: https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/