We found ourselves face to face with a form of modern day slavery.
Grounds of Grace began by walking among the homeless and prostitutes of St. Louis. It became apparent that the streets had an even darker side - American boys and girls were being forced into sex trafficking. The numbers were astounding; we were not prepared for the extent of victimization that exists in modern America. The child victims we met were without proper housing, medical care or support networks. The victims were patrolled by their traffickers and were allowed little opportunity to speak freely. We knew there was an immediate need for us to act, so we offered food and shelter. The services we offered were not accepted because the depth of manipulation and the coercion of victims by their traffickers did not allow them to leave their situation. This experience taught us firsthand that there is no such thing as "child prostitutes," because victims of sex trafficking have no choices in their lives.
Grounds of Grace contacted and researched law enforcement and human trafficking organizations and facilities to assess the needs of victims. We found that some facilities existed which helped victims overcome their addictions and emotional wounds through initial counseling services. We also reached out to common grounds of sex trafficking, such as truck stops, in order to establish a better understanding of the circumstances of the trafficking industry. We then interviewed victimized girls from across the nation. Their hearts opened as they related stories of deception, abuse, and control. They knew what they wanted out of life, yet did not know who they were or what the future held. While some victims received services, once they reached the age of 18, they often returned to the streets. This was due in large part to a lack of continued social services such as job skill training and a lack of social support. Most had come from abusive families or their families had sold them into slavery. There were not services available that preventing them from returning to the cycle of victimization. We wanted to end this cycle by providing lasting support and rehabilitation, thus Grounds of Grace was founded.
Grounds of Grace created a home - not a facility, halfway house, shelter, or rehabilitation center. Every person invited to Grounds of Grace is equipped with the skills for a better life so all may embark on their new path of hope and promise. Our search for the ideal location brought us to the heart of the Midwest in Springfield, Illinois, home of Abraham Lincoln. President Lincoln abolished slavery in the United States, which encouraged and fueled our hearts to fight and overcome a different form of slavery today.
The possibilities are limitless when people collaborate and partner to open their doors and hearts. The founders of Grounds of Grace request your support and encouragement to save a victimized life. Together, let us eradicate sex trafficking in central Illinois.