This next interview is with Becky Bradbury, who works at Next Step Ministries. This is an organization that is very close to my heart, and the people who are involved in it have become like family to me. So I am very excited to be able to share this amazing ministry and all the hard work that they do with you…
(K): Tell us a little bit about what your organization does…
(B): We walk alongside women exiting sexual exploitation.
How long has your organization been around?
NSM was incorporated in 2011, we opened Sparrow House November 15, 2013
What is your main goal/mission?
Vision is to see women exiting sexual exploitation and discovering their identity.
Mission is to walk alongside women exiting sexual exploitation as they break the cycle of addiction and abuse.
Who or what first inspired/convicted you to begin this journey towards ending human trafficking?
Haha, this is a long story but for time sake I will say, I knew that God had something more for me than an ordinary life. I was married to the man of my dreams, had two beautiful children and was in a career I loved but it all started with an “unholy unrest” in my spirit, after a time of wrestling what that meant God gave me the word “Cycle Breaker” I had no idea what that meant at the time but have been learning step by step what that means. I started by volunteering where there was a need and God has been leading from there.
We mainly work with women, over age 18 exiting sexual exploitation. We cannot accommodate children in our programming/housing at this time but many of the women we work with do have children or are working to get their children back. I do not work directly with men but Phil will meet with the girls ‘boyfriends’ (pimps, johns, dealers) if they are looking for healthy supports as well. The men often have the same issues/needs as the women.
We believe the Church was called to stand up against the exploitation of human beings and also needs to be involved in the care and healing of those who have been exploited and abused. We work with many churches across Calgary, on the reality of human trafficking in Calgary and Canada and also the context of what does the Bible actually say about justice for the oppressed, the widows and the orphans.
We offer Volunteer Training which educates on the reality of sexual exploitation and addiction. This training is mandatory for our volunteers as well it equips people in the community to have a better understanding and wisdom in dealing with loved ones that have/are experiencing these needs.
There is certainly an education piece that we bring as well as awareness but our primary focus is working with the women directly.
Where do you work and what is your main avenue of outreach?
We are currently working on the NSM Center, where women are able to come and access supports at a specific location, we will offer an evening class for women who are unable or do not need to be in the house or Day Program. We will have practical resources available on site, peer support and 1:1 case management time for women who have needs but are not in our programming.
We are starting a Ladies Group at the Calgary Remand Center next year as well as many of our women have incarceration in their history. We want to reach women where they are at, let them know they are loved and have worth just because they are who they are. They do not have to be perfect, cleaned up, or anything else to be valued or access support.
We answer the phone.
So many times, women have found us online, or heard about us through a friend; when they call, we answer. We offer to meet with them and offer support even if they are not looking for the programming we have available or our beds are full, we still work with them to help find the best fit for what they are looking for, sometimes that is no more than a meal or coffee and showing them that they matter, lending a bit of hope and creating a plan. They will check in daily or months or years down the road but we want them to know that they have worth and value and were created by God for good purpose.
We have created relationships with more than 40 agencies in the city so most of our referrals come from word of mouth from peers or from workers at the agencies that we have met with personally. We also had a Ladies Group at The Mustard Seed Shelter for a year and a half, again to meet women where they are at.
What types of services or programs do you offer for people exiting human trafficking?’
Outreach-meeting them where they are at, practical supports and relationship building. Housing, safe, supportive housing for women to live and learn while they are in our Day Program where they work on their healing journey, and Follow Care, women may access supports at any time, they are never just ‘done’ a program. Relationship is key to everything we do.
We offer choices, support and accountability but it is up to the women to work through their healing journey which is often (always) a story of trauma, abuse, and emotional pain that takes incredible courage to face, walking through and forward to the life they dream of.
Our ‘end goal’ or target at NSM is that the women know they are Loved. Loved by God. + They have a Choice.
Walk me through a bit of your process/procedure when you are trying to help people exit trafficking
From the first phone call it is about building relationship, being worthy of trust from someone who has a reason to distrust everyone. I ask her what kind of supports she is looking for then tell her what we have available by way of support and see if that aligns with her needs.
Then we start working through a plan of how to get what she is needed, if she is actively doing drugs, we start resourcing to get her into detox and possibly into treatment first, if she is in jail, it is writing letters and calls to her lawyer, the crown and anyone else needed, if she is in an emergency state we figure out how to keep her safe immediately.
I try to meet face to face with her within 24 hours if possible and do a pre-admission intake, this information is valuable as it highlights what she feels are her biggest needs and also gives us a better idea of where she is at currently, this first meeting can take an hour or even two as we are building trust and a relationship, it is not just about us having a bed and accepting her into a program, she has to want to be there and has to understand what she is signing up for (classes, housing expectations etc.) and agree on her part as well.
If there are immediate needs or safety concerns this processes can move very quickly or if someone is working on a gradual exit it can take months of support, check ins, setting plans in place.
Many times the women have no id, no financial means of support, either garbage bags full of clothes or no personal items except the clothing they are wearing.
The first few weeks in NSM housing and programming are about stabilization.
Getting personal items, clothing, groceries, assessing what her learning needs/goals are (cooking, GED, learning how to use a washing machine to finishing a degree started previously, etc. ) then putting in planning around how to support her to her goals. Getting ID, attending to matters of the courts or legal issues, setting her up with income support, introducing some healthy people into her life ideally setting her up with an intentional friend for support in program and help combat loneliness and isolation. Going to the doctor, dentist, eye doctor, many women have neglected their physical health for so long that there are a myriad of ongoing or chronic health issues that need to be addressed right away.
Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently when you first started out?
I would have gone with my gut more and set out more boundaries. The women are very vulnerable for sure but they are not helpless by any means, I would have taken better care of myself and set up boundaries and systems a bit better.
What’s the biggest misconception that you have encountered in relation to human trafficking?
Oh, I’m not even sure where to start on that one…that it happens in Canada.
Many people think that human trafficking only happens overseas or that it looks like something very specific, like a person chained with physical restraints and locked in a dark basement some women may even smile and do not look like what we would perceive a ‘human trafficking victim’.
We have created a cover narrative of prostitution that allows us a society to think that if someone does not look like a ‘human trafficking victim’ we do not have a moral obligation to stand up for her rights as a human being and may feel that she has chosen this lifestyle.
So many people also do not realize how much pornography contributes to human trafficking and has a strong impact on the work we do. All of the women I have worked with in 7 years have wanted desperately to exit, even if at one time they feel they made the choice of prostitution, they have been desperate to escape. We cannot have gender equality while supporting the systems in place that are degrading women.
What do you think the state of human trafficking will be like in 5 years, will we be any farther along in stopping it?
With the rise in demand due to pornography, lack of real relationships, casual morality and decreasing sense of personal responsibility that we are seeing evidence of nearly daily in our world it can appear pretty bleak and an uphill battle yet I have hope. There is also a generation rising up recognizing that human trafficking is a crime against a person and that we all can do something about it.
Is there one person or experience that has really stuck with you and motivated you to keep working towards abolition when things get rough? If so, would you mind sharing?
My heart. So many faces, so many women, so much sadness and pain yet also so much joy. Each woman has made an impression on my heart, I have learned so much from each of them. Sometimes when it is a particularly uphill battle I hear the voice of my dear friend E, “They are Listening, even if it doesn’t look like it. Don’t Give up. You didn’t give up on me and look now.”
E has very traumatic past starting from when she was just a very little girl. I met her when she was in her early 40s, she was a tough cookie, a fighter, totally against God, bitter, resentful, had extensive health issues, addictions, and very set in her ways. 3 years later, E is living the life she dreamed of. She is living in a small town in one of the first non-abusive relationships she has ever been in, she is battling her health issues but also has peace and is content, she knows that no matter what she is not alone and that the experiences she has lived through have made her into the person she is. E is kind, a good listener and gives generously of herself to all those around her. E reminds me not to give up, I hear her voice on the tough days and she tells me that if I don’t do it those girls won’t get help.
Lastly, what’s one piece of advice you would give to someone who wants to get involved with the abolition movement? Start. Do something. Look at what you have, do and are passionate about, those are there for a reason! Pray. Sometimes the oddest idea is the one you are supposed to act on. I had no experience in this field and started as a mom on maternity leave that was offering to bake cookies 7 years ago.
What do you have to give, some have money, some have talent, some have heart, we all have something to give. Evaluate your motives and your actions, is your life living the message you want to share?
I want to say a huge THANK YOU to Becky (for taking the time to do this interview with me), and everyone who works with and walks along side these women everyday; and who allow for them to walk forward in freedom.