YWCA expands services for victims of human trafficking

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -- The YWCA of Northeast Kansas, Center for Safety and Empowerment opened the first daytime drop-in center for survivors of human trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation on Friday.

(WIBW/Danielle Martin)

YWCA says the center meets survivors basic needs with dignity.

"We see this as an incredible, critical step in order to get them in a safe space and hopefully engage in a very long term but very important journey to recovery and healing," Project Director of YWCA, Michelle McCormick said. "It's opened to anyone who has been victimized, domestic violence, sexual violence, human trafficking, stocking, it's really opened to any of the people that we serve at the center of safety and empowerment."

The center provides a place for victims to eat, sleep, and shower, along with a space for support groups and counseling.

"That's a way for us to help them met their basic needs, but also engage with them in the relationships that we need, and in order to then encourage them to engage in our long time services."

The center provides a help kit for each victim. The help kit provides socks, toothbrush, toothpaste, blankets, and other toiletry items.

"I can't tell you how heartbreaking it is to see a victim of trafficking walk into our office after a really horrific weekend and they don't have shoes on their feet and need a safe place to shower and they're just beyond devastated about what has just happened to them," McCormick explained.

The center is a partnership of Topeka Rotary, Greater Topeka Partnership, and other community entities. The Kansas Attorney General, Derek Schmidt says support is critical to recovery.

"Kansas has been very supportive of those who are less fortunate throughout our history," Schmidt said. "People who have been hiding in plain sight for the lack of a better phrase in all of our communities, and we have now awakened and realized they need help."

YWCA says they hope victims understand the center is a safe place for them to stop by when their in need. The center is set to open on Monday.

"We want to meet people where they are and we want them to have a safe place and we want this to be a safe place," Dr. Sullivan said.

If you or someone you know needs help, please call the 24-hour crisis line at 1-888-822-2983.

For more information on the center and how to become involved, click here.