"All individuals have the right to live a life free
from violence, exploitation, and victimization."
- Katie Rhoades, MSW Founding Director
Healing Action is committed to combating commercial sexual exploitation through a multi-system approach of creating awareness by sharing our experience/strength/hope with others, advocacy with/on behalf of survivors for programs and services needed to empower them, and healing action to create spaces where all can thrive.
United with our partners, we envision our communities free from exploitation.
It is virtually impossible to recognize the difference between forced prostitution and voluntary prostitution. All individuals who want out deserve a hand, regardless of how they got there.
The end to exploitation only happens when all members of our network work together to create spaces where all can thrive.
Individuals who have been involved with the sex trade have their own experiences that are unique to them. And therefore, their journey out should be just as unique.
Individuals who purchase sex fuel the market for commercial sexual exploitation.
We are one part of an interconnected network of people, institutions, and communities. The end of exploitation only happens when all members of our network work together to create spaces where all can thrive.
Healing Action was born of a Commercial Sexual Exploitation survivor's dream to provide services that didn't exist when trying to leave "the life."This dream was born over years which included Katie Rhoades, MSW Founder & Executive Director of Healing Action, earning her Master's Degree in Social Work of Washington University in St. Louis, and over years integrating herself deeply into the social service network of the St. Louis professional community and seeing major gaps in helping women viewed as members of the 'oldest profession.'
Four years ago, Katie Rhoades, MSW, began the actual work of Healing Action by developing and providing trauma-informed therapeutic services to other survivors in residential shelters and within other mental health programs across St. Louis. While also balancing a full time job, no funding, and no staff, Katie's education and advocacy work was also a voice to political leaders in the Greater St. Louis area and within the Missouri State Legislature. Rhoades started the organization as a way to educate her community, similar non-profits, and the government. Specifically, she worked on Missouri’s Safe at Home Bill. The Safe at Home Bill provides, free of charge, post office boxes to victims of sex trafficking, so their abusers cannot locate them. Rhoades also recognizing that prostitution frequently occurs at hotels, trained many hotel staff teams to identify commercial sex. Thereby, Rhoades was successful in placing one more stopgap into the commercial sex trade.
In the fall of 2014, Rhoades and her business partner made a presentation to a private organization on how they could get involved with sex trafficking organizations. The organization decided that the best way to support the community was by giving Rhoades a chance to pitch her own vision for an organization. In the spring of 2015, Rhoades gave a presentation on her vision of what Healing Action would be. A second presentation detailed her multi-year strategic plan complete with budgets and financial resources. In September of 2015, Rhoades was awarded a three-year contracted partnership, which provided significant start up funding for her dream and vision, Healing Action.
After receiving the grant, Rhoades started a board of directors, hired key staff, and a Peer-to-Peer coordinator, Jennifer Hardy. The three women found a physical space for the organization and began creating programs, establishing partnerships with other St. Louis organizations, and preparing the Healing Action space for their new clients.
Healing Action has a unique opportunity to best serve and advocate for their clients. The Executive Director and the Peer-to-Peer Coordinator are former victims of sex trafficking. To best serve this population, “it is imperative to recognize the suffering, the victimization, and human rights violations that victims face.” (Ren, 2013) Rhoades and Hardy are able to do this better than most because of their past experience combined with formal training.
At this time, Healing Action is in it's 1st year of operation. The staff is in the process of piloting programs to serve exploited women in commercial sex or in human trafficking. Healing Action recognizes that each client is different and has faced unique traumas. As a result, every plan is specific to the client – there is no “one size fits all” solution.
One of the most important pieces of Healing Action’s mission is the idea that it is virtually impossible to distinguish forced prostitution from voluntary prostitution. Healing Action will help any person who wants to leave the commercial sex industry, regardless of how they got there. Healing Action believes that exploitation will only end when all members of our community network work together to create safe spaces where all people can thrive.
Katie currently holds a Master in Social Work from Washington University in Saint Louis, as well as a Bachelor in Social Work from Metropolitan State University. Since 2005, Katie has been raising awareness about commercial sexual exploitation through speaking about her own experience as a survivor, mentoring other survivors and consulting with agencies that support victims of violence.
Jennifer joined our team in November 2015 as our Peer Support Coordinator. She became passionate about helping other women after she was able to exit her own life of exploitation several years ago. Jennifer earned the title of Certified Missouri Peer Specialist in 2015 and is passionate about sharing her experience, strength, and hope with the community and other survivors of exploitation.
Joining our team in November 2016, Jason brings forward a passion for helping others, using interpersonal relationships as well as a stroke of technological know how to support the women, staff and organization as a whole.
Bio coming soon!
Dana joined Healing Action as a member in December of 2016. In January of 2017 she entered into the long-term supportive housing called RENT, Recovery Environment for a New Transition. In February, Dana started working in the office under our Survivor Leadership Program and since then has graduated to Leadership Intern. Dana has also become a Certified Missouri Peer Specialist through the Missouri Department of Mental Health. She currently works closely with the Development Team and is considered the "concierge" to our members. She is passionate about using her own story and life experience to help the other members become empowered survivors.