Local resource for sex trafficking survivors sets January restart for weekly meetings
“What I’ve noticed is, for a lot of people, when it comes to prostitution, they bypass the criminality piece or the ideas of domestic violence — the trauma. But I always remind them — this is the second largest organized crime. This is serious, and it’s still swept under the rug.”
By Lisa Loving, NECN
Just a few years ago, Rena Williams, founder of the organizatuon for sex trafficking survivors Another Level, had established weekly peer counseling groups supported, in part, by the Northeast Coalition of Neighborhoods (see the feature story about their work by Mischa Webley in the Fall 2019 Hey Neighhor!). Then the pandemic hit, and the programs were shut down during the pandemic isolation phase.
Now they’re back. Starting on Jan. 26, 2022, Williams will once again host sex trafficking survivor peer support groups every Wednesday at 6pm. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for the meeting details, because they won’t be made public.
Williams nurtured the idea of creating a resource like Another Level for many years. After getting out of the life, completing a yearlong outpatient treatment program, and attending University of Oregon intensive courses on human trafficking, Williams was ready to bring unique skills and perspectives to the table.
“Because I have lived experience — that’s the best kind of facilitator that somebody can have,” she says. “I do have to say when I started this, I didn’t think it would take off like it did.”
She started creating accountability tools for support group participants to help make the changes they want in their lives. Williams eventually developed Saturday night support groups that ran for almost four years.
She mentored sexual trafficking survivors at the Diane Wade House in the Bridges to Change program, before it was shut down in 2020 — right about the same time pandemic restrictions forced the state to shutter facilities of all kinds.
Since then, Williams worked on projects around bringing awareness to Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women.
“And I did outreach twice, and that was a little bit too much. It was pretty hard watching, when you’re up close and personal all day, you’re handing out literature and talking to kids and stuff like that.
“What I’ve noticed is, for a lot of people, when it comes to prostitution, they bypass the criminality piece or the ideas of domestic violence — the trauma.
“But I always remind them — this is the second largest organized crime. This is serious, and it’s still swept under the rug.”