When Partners Against Trafficking Humans (PATH) began in 2011, Arkansas was named among the “faltering four” states — along with Montana, South Dakota and Wyoming — for its lack of a legal framework against human trafficking by the Polaris Project, a leading organization combating human slavery, according to arkansasnews.com. According to Louise Allison, founder of PATH, the safe house, which opened in 2012, was the first of its kind for trafficked women in the state.
“When I started thinking about the other girls who are out there, who are trapped in their minds the way I was trapped, and scared, unable to do life, then I wanted to help them,” Allison said.
Allison became a victim of sex trafficking at the age of 14. After running away from her wealthy Dallas home, Allison was stopped by a “really nice,” clean-cut young man less than two blocks from her house. She accepted his offer of a place to stay overnight and rode home with him in his expensive car. He proceeded to introduce her to the sex industry.
“I didn’t know (sex trafficking) existed,” Allison said. “I didn’t know how to call for help; I felt trapped.”
Allison was forced to have sex with several adult men every day for two years. She was transferred between various pimps, most of whom she cannot remember, along with fellow trafficked victims. The girls were often arrested for prostitution, but their trafficker taught them to give false names and ages upon each arrest in order to bring their earnings back safely.
Allison said she returned to her family at age 16 after police identified her from a pass to her community pool that was left in the pocket of her worn-out blue jeans. She completed her high school education two years later at a boarding school in Dallas, where she graduated with honors.
She then willingly walked to her previous pimp’s headquarters and began selling herself again.
“Even though I was 18 on the outside, I was 14 years old on the inside,” Allison said. “I didn’t know how to manage my life, so I went back to the place I had been two years earlier, and I started prostituting again.”
Allison soon married and started a family. After approximately 15 years of a difficult marriage, depression and suicidal thoughts, Allison said everything “clicked” after a prayer to God. She said her thoughts kept her awake through the night as she sat in a lawn chair in her backyard. While her husband was away at his second home in the city, where handled his business, she walked to her neighbors’ house and used their phone to call her sister, who rescued her and the children.
“I was very manipulated into thinking this was going to be my life for the rest of my life, so I did exactly what I was told to do,” Allison said.
PATH provides several services to its clients. PATH works for the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual rehabilitation of victims. Women are first evaluated by physicians and therapists upon arrival, then given a multi-step plan for recovery. Fitness and diet plans, tutoring, financial counseling and other life skills education are part of the recovery program.
Each step allows a client more privileges and responsibility until she is able to live on her own, according to Allison. Each woman staying at the safe house is given her own room, which she can decorate and use as a quiet place to help her recover.
Allison said she drew from 30 years of experience with child psychology and nursing administration, along with help from two social workers, two nurses and a psychologist, to create the program.
Allison said the program is individualized for the needs of each client, and it takes women a year on average to complete. According to Allison, a woman in a safe house will leave and return to at a national average of five times, but the average for a woman to leave PATH before completing the program is one.