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Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation Recovery Program to open in Sarasota/Manatee


SARASOTA – Selah Freedom, a local non-profit focused on stopping human trafficking and sexual exploitation on Florida’s Gulf Coast, has announced that they are opening a local Residential Recovery Program. on November 1. The 12-month program will provide victims with safe housing and 24-hour coaches to facilitate comprehensive restorative healing.

Melissa VanDyke, a Sarasota native, and a survivor of sexual abuse and addiction was recently hired as the program's first coach.

“The sexual abuse I experienced as a child and my subsequent struggle with addiction robbed me of my freedom for many years” said VanDyke. “I empathize with the victims Selah Freedom serves. Many of them are coerced into a life of sexual servitude at a young age, their childhood is stolen from them and they lack basic skills like making a bed or preparing a meal. I am honored to use my past experience to help these women cope with their abuse and learn the necessary skills to successfully manage their new freedom.”

Serving 50 women over the past 12 months, Selah Freedom expects the new Residential Recovery Program to fill quickly and has partnered with the Sarasota and Bradenton Police Departments to bring victims into their care. The organization, with community support, plans to acquire additional properties to serve the growing number of local victims.

“The Tampa Bay, Bradenton and Sarasota area is the third-largest hub for human trafficking in the state after Miami and Orlando, and Manatee ranks first among Florida counties in prostitution arrests” says Elizabeth Melendez Fisher, President and CEO of Selah Freedom. “This home is a great first step, bringing us closer to putting an end to human trafficking and sexual exploitation. Every life is precious and there is always hope for a full recovery. We want to provide victims with a place that gives them hope, lets them rest and allows them to fully recover. We are proud to employ local survivors in this setting.”


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