GARRARD COUNTY, Ky.- It’s hard to imagine the life Devon Boykin lived before. A beautiful 30-year-old woman, a wife and mother of three, with a career. But years of sexual abuse in her childhood led to drugs.
“I wanted more drugs and at a young age you don’t have money. I couldn’t just go get a job at 15,” Boykin said. “What did I know how to do? Well, ever since a young age I knew how to have sex,” Boykin said.
But a rock bottom moment became a turning point that would change Boykin’s life. “What brought me to (Refuge for Women) was that overdose and my daughter looking at me and basically like cursing me at three-years-old and telling me that she hated me,” said Boykin.
Since 2010, Refuge For Women (RFW) has been just that- a safe place for Boykin and many other women to escape sex trafficking situations. What started on a Garrard County, Kentucky farm, has grown into safe houses in four cities across the country.
Ked Franklin is the Founder and President of Refuge for Women. “How in the world can people treat other people in such a grotesque, inhumane kind of way?” Franklin said. “But it happens. Sometimes we don’t even want to stomach that kind of stuff, but it’s real,” Franklin said.
The International Labour Organization reports 4.5 Million people worldwide, mostly women, are victims of forced sexual exploitation.
It’ a dark and lucrative criminal industry that now outranks the illegal sale of firearms and is second in global crime only to drug trafficking.
In 2017 data from Polaris, a non-profit organization that fights human trafficking, shows 69 sex trafficking cases in Kentucky. But that information is based on individuals using the help line and doesn’t represent the full scope of human trafficking in the state.
The International Labour Organization and the United Nations both report limitations in collecting data on human trafficking. The Executive Director of United Nations Office on Drug and Crimes, Antonio Maria Costa, has said to fight this crime better improvements must be made in “information-gathering and sharing on human trafficking.”
As the drug epidemic grows, so does the need for a place for police to take women caught up in sex trafficking, according to Franklin.
“We want to be able to provide that service in partnership with the state police, to be able to provide immediate intake for trafficked and exploited women, “Franklin said.
Through a donation, Refuge for Women is purchasing 50 acres of land in Garrard County, where the current long-term safe house sits. Another home on the property, will be turned into a crisis center. A local business helped RFW take a giant step toward making the new center a reality. Amtek donated $250 toward the purchase of the future crisis center. They still need $261,000 to complete the purchase. Franklin hopes the crisis center will provide a place for law enforcement to bring women exploited through sex trafficking. It will be a place they can receive help and an alternative to jail.
Boykin hopes to reach some of those women before they ever need a safe house. She’s become an advocate for Refuge For Women and raises awareness by speaking in schools. For those who have already gone down the dangerous path of sex trafficking, she has a message.
“There is a way out. You weren’t created to live the type of life you’re living,”said Boykin.
The National Human Trafficking Hotline number is: 1-888-373-7888 or text HELP to 233733 (BEFREE)
Refuge For Women will host its annual gala on October 27, 2018.