New local human sex trafficking safe house opening

TAMPA - The threat of human trafficking is a growing one here in Florida, but a Bay Area group is working to change that by giving victims a safe place to turn.  

"It's happening here. You probably see it everyday you don't realize what you're looking at ," said Elizabeth Fisher, the founder of Selah Freedom. 

That is why Fisher set out to open a safe house, giving survivors of human sex trafficking a place to go to heal. 

"We are one of the few serving women in the area and in the state. There are a couple and they're small like us, they only have four beds, and the need is exponential.  They say there are 300,000 kids sold into this in our country every year, and Florida is number three in the country."

We can't disclose the location for security reasons, but inside there's fine china and beautiful antiques, all the comforts to help the women feel at home. 

"We walk alongside them for a good two years to help them build all the safe relationships they need," Fisher said.

The program is modeled after one used by an organization in Atlanta.  Fisher says it's proven to be one of the most successful, consisting of three stages.  

The safe house is where the survivors will come for the first few weeks. 

"It's a phase of making sure they're ready for the program, because it's a choice, you can't keep someone against their will," Fisher said.

The next two stages consist of intense rehabilitation and therapy with doctors who specialize in the field, as well as coaches who are human trafficking survivors themselves, helping survivors restore their lives. 

"It's a whole process of helping them believe they are still in tact and they still can make decisions and they still are whole and they can move on," Fisher said.

Based on the need, Selah Freedom already has plans for a second, larger safe house.  Officials with the charity say they've received a $250,000 matching gift and they're accepting donations. To learn more or donate, visit selahfreedom.com .

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