CLEVELAND – Survivors and those trying to escape human trafficking now have a new resource and it’s located right in the neighborhood it serves.
Teresa Stafford is the program manager at the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center.
“We have been open since the beginning of the year; in March at 105th and Superior Avenue. This building is truly dedicated to people in our community who are currently being trafficked or to people who have been trafficked in the past, ”said Teresa Stafford, of the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center.
Each year, more than 64,000 people, a third of whom are young people, connect to the center. Every day, Stafford uses her experience and her story of surviving sexual violence to support victims.
“We really wanted to create a space that was more of a community space and not a typical behavioral health space,” Stafford said.
The Cleveland Rape Crisis Center has six offices in northeast Ohio, with its latest addition being a human trafficking drop-in center located in the eastern part of Cleveland.
“When it comes to human trafficking, we know that a high percentage of our clients are young African American girls who reside in East Cleveland. And because of that data, over the last couple of years, we thought it was really important that we have a community center located in a neighborhood. Access wouldn’t be a problem, but also in the neighborhood where people know you know, this community won’t take anyone who will harm people in the community, ”she said.
And the work in progress at the reception center will be supported by state funding.
The crisis center was first budgeted for the state of Ohio in its 48-year history.
It’s a victory that Stafford and other defenders say will allow them to support even more people.
“You can come in, you can speak with a counselor, you can speak with a case manager, or you can come in and just be in a safe space. You can go in for a shower. You can come in and wash your clothes, have a snack. Maybe you need to use the internet to be able to actually look for a job, ”she said.
Whether it’s offering amenities or connecting them to valuable resources, Stafford said this safe space is one of the first steps victims take to survive.