Into the Light is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization in Mountain Home, Arkansas, whose vision is to illuminate the darkness of sexual exploitation. They seek to accomplish this mission through prevention, rescue, and restoration. They also strive to provide trauma-focused residential care for female survivors, ages 12-17, of sexual exploitation, child sex slavery, or child sex trafficking, through a state-licensed group home and a comprehensive, strength-based therapy program.
We asked Grethcen Smeltzer, the Director of Into the Light Ministries, regarding their organization and what they do.
Q: Could you tell us what sparked the birth of Into the Light Ministries?
A: In 2012 God brought together a group of people who were broken and burdened for victims of sexual exploitation. We began meeting together to pray to seek God on how He would have us serve survivors and fight against the sexual exploitation of humans. Through our times of prayer and sharing we all had a common desire to be one on one with female survivors. Everyone in our group wanted to be personally invested in their lives. We began researching the need for aftercare for survivors in the state of Arkansas.
Our team quickly discovered that no one in our state was providing trauma-based long-term aftercare for minor who had been sexually exploited.
After receiving confirmation from law enforcement and other service providers serving high-risk youth that this was in fact a great need in our state, our team decided this would be our long-term mission. In the Fall of 2013, our team began the process of becoming a 501(c)3 non-profit, with the ultimate goal of providing long-term, trauma-based residential care for minors who have been sexually exploited.
Q: What are the ways in which Into the Light Ministries is helping minor female survivors of sex trafficking?
A: Currently, Into the Light provides training on Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking to law enforcement, first responders, juvenile detention staff, juvenile probation officers and anyone working with high-risk youth. Our juvenile detention outreach team educates females in detention by presenting the Traps of the Trafficker program. This program was developed by Traffick911 based in Dallas, TX. They currently present the program in 14 detention centers in the state of Texas. After seeing their great success with the sharing the Traps program, Into the Light asked if we could bring it to Arkansas. Traffick911 has provided us with excellent training on how to present the program and how to approach the girls in detention. Often, many girls in juvenile detention are extremely high-risk for being sexually trafficked. The program helps the girls understand the tactics and manipulation techniques traffickers use to lure their victims. Frequently, girls in juvenile detention have already been trafficked. We are safe place for them to share their stories of abuse. Our time with them allows us to gather vital information about their trafficker. The juvenile detention outreach team can then turn these leads over to law enforcement. Into the Light continues towards our efforts to establishing long-term residential care for minors.
Q: From your experience, what would you say is the toughest challenge in the process of helping and caring for these survivors?
A: Our toughest challenge has been the need to bring consistent awareness to the issue of minor sex trafficking.
Many do not want to believe that it is an actual problem in their area. Education is key to helping people understand the enormity of the issue.
People have many misconceptions about prostitution. We have to constantly educate that human trafficking is a very lucrative business and traffickers work hard to manipulate and deceive their victims.
Q: Could you share with us some of the immediate needs for Into the Light Ministries?
A: Into the Light's immediate needs are:
• connections across the state of Arkansas,
• and volunteers.
We fully trust and know that God is the one that can shed light on the reality of sexual exploitation. God is the one that will burden people's hearts to financially partner with Into the Light. Providing long-term residential care for survivors is a very expensive process. Our hope and prayer is that individuals, organizations, and corporations will see the need for trauma-based services and donate to our efforts.
Q: How can the every day person join you in fighting human trafficking? What advice would you give for someone who wanted to really make a difference?
A: The average person can partner with our organization and fight sexual exploitation by being a voice for the voiceless. Educate yourself about the realities of human sex trafficking. Share what you learn with your friends and family. Then share the mission and vision of Into the Light. The sexual exploitation of humans is a dark issue. Acknowledge the truth of the issue sheds light on human trafficking and helps stop it.
Into the Light is having an upcoming Benefit Walk/Run event on October 9th called Out of the Darkness 5K and Fun Run in Mountain Home, Arkansas. To learn more about this event, you can visit the event's Facebook page, or click here to register.