Partners Against Trafficking Humans (PATH) provides services to sexually exploited women. While the organization does not currently run a safe house, it continues to provide services through a day center in Arkansas while working closely with other organizations to find safe places for victims across the U.S.
The last facility was closed in October 2014 due to limited expenses, but is expected to reopen in July. Funds have been raised to keep the next shelter open for at least two years, according to PATH founder and executive director Louise Allison.
Sex-trafficking survivor Stacey Loyd graduated from PATH in 2014 and is currently at a transitional living facility that monitors her while she lives on her own. She is required to sign in and out, take drug tests and to get passes leave with family.
“I’ve come a long way,” Loyd said. “I felt like I was in that movie ‘Castaway’ with Tom Hanks where he talks to that ball. (My first pimp) had a little Chihuahua that I would talk to … He got me through a lot of days, and now I don’t have to just talk to a dog. I have people here at transitional living I talk to.”
Loyd said she advocates for sex-trafficking victims by speaking to various audiences such as graduates from foster care, college students and news media.
“I just want to get the word out that there’s a lot of women who think they deserve that life (of exploitation), and there’s a lot of women who think they’re stuck in (trafficking) forever, but I just want to let them know that there’s other opportunities,” Loyd said. “There are ways to get out of it, and they don’t deserve that life just because they made some bad decisions in life. Nobody deserves that.”
Loyd has been drug-free for 16 months and plans to earn a college degree, though she is not certain on a career.
“I really feel like being a caregiver is what I always wanted to do,” Loyd said. “I don’t know if eventually one day I will be a drug counselor … but I know that one day I’m going to go back to school.”
The Polaris Project recognized Arkansas as the most improved state in 2013 regarding anti-trafficking laws when the state established a task force to address human trafficking in, of which Allison is a member.
Law enforcement training, new legislation against those charged with trafficking, and mandated postings of the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline were part of the 2013 anti-trafficking movement in Arkansas, according to polarisproject.org. The 2014 Arkansas Task Force Report for the Prevention of Human Trafficking states hotline information is to be advertised in hotels, airports, train and bus stops, and sexually-oriented businesses.
According to Allison, the 24-hour PATH helpline receives approximately 100 calls a year. Some women are helped through a day facility while others are referred to other organizations for further assistance.
PATH partners with New Hope Youth Ministries, a non-profit in Russellville, Arkansas, that assists child survivors of sex trafficking, and New Eyes, an organization that provides outreach services in Arkansas. PATH plans to develop programs in Arkansas cities Hot Springs, Jonesboro, Ft. Smith, Fayetteville and Arkadelphia, according to pathsaves.org.
If you or someone you know is a victim of sex trafficking, call the PATH helpline at (501) 301-HELP. For more information, visit pathsaves.org.
Stacey Loyd is a fictitious name used to protect the identity of the woman identified in this series.