by Travis Mateer
I finally took a look at a video, first brought to my attention by JC in this post about the LifeGuard Group and the $30,000 they recently received from Town Pump to combat human trafficking.
As a red-blooded American male in my prime, something inside me began stirring as I watched the video. What could it be? Was a noble WHITE KNIGHT emerging from my inner depths?
This screen shot is from that video promoting the Crooked Tree Ranch, an alleged “safe house” for victims of human trafficking to kick back and relax in the lap of luxury. Remote luxury. In the middle of the woods with nothing but WHITE KNIGHTS around to keep the scary monsters away.
Doesn’t that nice?
Yes, this young woman is VERY happy. But how can she EVER show her gratitude? Especially after those scary monsters left her with nothing but the skillset of pleasing others with her body? Wait…
No, these knights are wearing the armor of GOD, so I’m sure professional boundaries will be honored, no matter HOW badly these poor victims might assure their saviors that giving thanks and praise for being saved can take MANY forms.
Think I’m reading too much into this? Watch the 5:44 video first. I’ll wait.
“You know I’ve spent a lot of time in the alleyways, the back streets, the dark corners of a lot of cities across America and even abroad…” begins Lowell Hochhalter, the head honcho at LifeGuard Group and the chaplain for the Sheriff’s Department. Really, Lowell? In what capacity?
The questions I have about this group continue to mount as the headlines continue to claim good things are being done with money from Town Pump and the Gianforte Foundation. From the link:
The 40 acres, 9,000 square foot home in Western Montana will house about 6 women, a live-in house manager, and will include emergent rooms for when emergency situations arise. The Hochhalter’s anticipate it will be full as soon as they are ready to open.
“One of our survivors came onto the property just to look at it for the first time she stepped out of her car, tears filled her eyes and she said, ‘I feel such peace,'” said Tami Hochhalter. “And that’s exactly what was our dream and our desire from the beginning.”
I’m glad Tami Hochhalter thinks a nice ranch in the middle of the woods is what survivors of human trafficking need. I hope the Hochhalter’s have a lot of gas money and a sturdy vehicle to make sure THEIR survivors can connect with services to, you know, actually PROCESS the fucking trauma of being exploited for profit by predators.
The article goes on to describe a disturbing disconnect between what these survivors ACTUALLY need vs. what these white knights ASSUME they need.
It is a place where survivors of human trafficking can come find peace and begin to think about their dreams. But most importantly it is a place where family is being redefined.
“And she told us ‘Lowell and Tami, you have got to make this a home,'” said Tami Hochhalter. “She said ‘for one thing, I don’t know home. I don’t know mom. I don’t know Dad. My parents sold me into the life.’”
A nice house with well-meaning people (I hope) who think they can surrogate-parent victims of trafficking into some kind of godly tranquility is NOT a replacement for professional counseling. Without setting clear boundaries during the early stages of a victim fleeing an abusive situation, bad things will happen.
Once again I’ll reference my time working at the homeless shelter to drive “home” what I’m talking about.
I distinctly remember being in the tiny office at the Poverello Center with my superior when a woman we had been prepared to arrive entered the facility. I had been told some details about her abuse, and it was horrific.
Because of that history of abuse we required all staff, especially male staff, to be extra aware of their interactions, and to NEVER be in a room alone with her. After that first interaction, once she had left the room, my boss pointed out some of the sexual signaling the woman had been displaying, probably most of it unconsciously.
The best-of-intentioned people, without being aware of these dynamics, can get themselves into trouble quickly.
But I was just trying to HELP her, they shout in defense. And maybe that’s how it starts, but that’s not where it will end if safeguards aren’t in place.
Since I’m an English Major, math is not my strong suit. Also, I’m feeling a little lazy right now, but it might be interesting to count how many female victims are displayed in this video vs. male ones. And the ages are also interesting to make note of. If we are to aim to be inclusive in representing the range of trafficking victims, why no teenage boys? Is that not the kind of demographic that lures volunteers and donations?
I don’t know, despite a few different attempts, this guy isn’t getting back to me.
And that’s ok, because what I’m after now is the job description of the chaplain, which I hope the Missoula Sheriff’s HR department can help me with.
While I wait for that email, I’ll be taking Zoom Chron on the road for a special report, to be posted Sunday, I hope.
So stay tuned, and thanks for reading!