When Sister Rose Ann Barman gave a seminar on sex trafficking to members of the Colorado Springs community in 2014, one of those present asked, “Well, what are we going to do about it? » The Benedictine nun of Benet Hill Monastery wanted to do more than raise awareness; she wanted to provide support to survivors.
Eight years later, Barman joins forces with Liz Kosofsky to open Bakhita Mountain Housea non-denominational shelter, which will be one of the few places in Colorado for adult female victims of sex trafficking.
Human traffickers force victims to participate in sex work or trade. Although exact numbers are difficult to calculate, the National Human Trafficking Hotline recorded more than 10,000 cases in the United States in 2020 (latest year for which data are available). Colorado had 137 reported cases that year, making it one of the top 20 states with the most reported cases. The majority of these cases involved sex trafficking.
The Bakhita Mountain House is a two-year program where the six participants will determine the resources they need most to recover.
The goal is to give women a place to heal, said Kosofsky, program director for Bakhita. “What we hope to offer Bakhita is a place where people can stop and take a deep breath. Think and watch what they want. Not, ‘What should happen now?’ but, ‘What do I see for myself moving forward?’
Resources for women participating in the program will be based on this decision-making process. It will include basic needs like housing and food, job training and education. If women so wish, they could also have access to activities such as yoga.
“Everyone is going to have a different vision of what they want to see in the future for themselves,” Kosofsky said. “What we want to do is walk alongside the individual and help them identify what they want.”
Bakhita will not provide emergency housing for people and residents must be sober. “We’re not going to be the right home for everyone and not everyone will be the right resident for us,” Kosofsky said.
The exact location of Bakhita is kept secret to protect the safety of the women who will be housed there.
Bakhita Mountain House is named after Roman Catholic Saint Josephine Bakhita, who was canonized in 2000, making her the first African woman to become a saint in the 21st century. As a child, in the mid-1800s, Bakhita was taken from her family in Sudan and enslaved. She was eventually sold to an Italian diplomat and transferred to Italy. On her release in 1890, she entered the Institut Sainte-Madeleine de Canossa. She is the patron saint of those trapped in slavery and human trafficking, and her feast day, or celebration, is February 8.
Bartender said she was excited about the house. “Anyone who is a victim of human trafficking – it’s not their fault,” she said. “The Bakhita Mountain Home will be a place of rescue and recovery from this trauma because it is such a violation of the human person.”
To report suspected trafficking, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or text 233733. This hotline is free and confidential. The Colorado Human Trafficking Hotline can be reached at 866-455-5075.