University of Louisville Magazine

SUM 2018

The University of Louisville Alumni Magazine: for alumni, faculty, staff, students and anyone that is a UofL Cardinal fan.

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Page 43 of 75

Renfro speaks to a group of women at one of the Kristy Love Foundation homes. why — and she needed to support herself and her daughters. She's hesitant in talking about how the trafficking first started: "I needed money to take care of my children, and I met people that told me there was maybe somebody I could go meet to maybe make money with." She was understandably uncomfort- able — at first. Then, "I was making mon- ey … so it became normal-like. I justified the behavior to take care of my children. But really it was for me to keep my addic- tion going." Cotie eventually lost her house, job and car. Her daughters were removed from her custody. One day, after an ar- rest for passing a cold check, she went to her small county hospital and told a lie to get help. "I told them, 'Either you help me or I'm going to harm myself.' " After a short stint in a recovery pro- gram, a counselor who knew Cotie was caught up in sex trafficking told her about Louisville's Kristy Love Foundation. F Founded and managed by Angela Renfro, the Kristy Love Foundation provides as- sistance to women trying to leave the life. Renfro herself is a survivor. "Kristy Love" was the name her pimp made her use. "We help survivors have healthy op- tions," Renfro said. "What society says is normal isn't normal to us. The wom- en here get a taste of freedom from traf- ficking, drugs, alcohol. It makes them drive even more like I did — to fight for that [new] life and not go back to the other one." Jennifer Middleton, associate profes- sor in Uof L's Kent School of Social Work, turned to the Kristy Love Foundation to implement Project STAAR: Survi- vors of Trafficking Creating Art, Agency and Resilience. Middleton, social work colleague Lesley Harris and doctoral student Jaime Thompson help small groups of survivors make art. The art empowers them to create and also launches group discussion of their experiences during counseling sessions. "Their stories were phenomenal, real- ly heartbreaking," Middleton said. Cotie was one of the participants and hers was just one of the affecting stories Uof L researchers heard. Theresa Hayden, assistant professor of criminal justice who directs Uof L's Human Trafficking Research Initiative with Middleton, has provided other examples to students in her human trafficking course. "Their eyes are opened the first week of class," said Hayden. "It's exploitation of human rights — and the greed that drives them [traffickers] …. They begin to see that vulnerability, that victimization." The growing exposure to information about trafficking was transformative for Hayden. Her educational and research experiences led her to chair the board for PATH (People Against Trafficking Hu- mans) Coalition of Kentucky, a nonprof- it devoted to education, awareness and, ultimately, plans for a home with trau- ma-informed services for 18- to 24-year- old survivors seeking a safe place. The lack of a home is a major factor for youth victims, and research coordi- nated by Uof L and several community partners is providing data needed to bol- ster policy and enforcement measures to combat the problem. The Youth Experi- ences Survey (YES), conducted by Uof L found 40 percent of 132 homeless youth aged 12-25 surveyed in Louisville and Southern Indiana in late 2016 report- ed they were victims of sex trafficking, mostly in exchange for money or lodging, and the average age of their first such ex- perience was 16. "Everything we're doing builds on the YES survey," Middleton said. "It served as a call to action in our community and our state." "Human trafficking represents the worst form of abuse, often to children, and it is increasing in Kentucky," Attor- ney General Andy Beshear said. "Re- search such as Uof L's study is important and will help our efforts to combat this form of modern-day slavery." W While Cotie was in the life, she occa- sionally visited an emergency room or trauma center but received little un- derstanding from the providers. "Once, "We help survivors have healthy options. What society says is normal isn't normal to us. The women here get a taste of freedom from trafficking, drugs, alcohol. It makes them drive even more like I did — to fight for that [new] life and not go back to the other one." – ANGELA RENFRO 42 UOFLMAGAZINE.COM

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