Nonprofit seeks to raise awareness of sex trafficking in St. Louis area

ST. LOUIS - Sex trafficking in the St. Louis area is at a high rate.  It’s a topic that has not been talked about much until recent times.  However, there is one organization in the area, that is survivor-led, trying to raise awareness and provide victims a fresh start.

The goal of Healing Action is to stop sexual exploitation wherever it is and give victims a place to heal.

“One hundred percent of folks we serve have a history of childhood, physical, sexual abuse," said Katie Rhoades.

Katie Rhodes understands this because she is a sex trafficking survivor. She was sexually, mentally and emotionally abused as a teen.

Katie escaped the abuse and made it to Washington University. This is where she attained her master’s degree in social work. It’s also where she came up with the idea for Healing Action. The organization helps women and men over the age of 18 who have been exploited.

“We have people from Jefferson County, St. Louis County, the City of St. Louis and the Metro East. Exploitation happens all over our city. It doesn`t matter what part you`re in," said Rhoades.

Jason Seward, Director of Development Healing Action says, “We`ve been around for two years but people still don`t know about it.  It`s starting to grow but more awareness is always better.”

Healing Action opened in November of 2015.  The nonprofit provides an action plan for victims to escape from the sex trade.  Hide from their abusers and heal.

Housing is their biggest need.

“If we can’t provide stable housing it’s very hard to have them start working on their trauma," said Rhoades.

Substance abuse is an issue they work through as well.  Just last week, one young woman they were trying to help overdosed before they could get her housing.

Rhoades adds, “It’s a reminder that we can’t save everybody, but we have to try. The lack of services a real consequence."