A Message from Our Founder

     

Dr. Jeff Barrows, Gracehaven Founder

Just after 1 p.m. on a Tuesday in the Fall of 2004, I was talking on the phone with Adam Freer, a member of Salvation Army's national team fighting sex trafficking.  For the previous several months I had been researching the issue of sex trafficking around the world and found myself especially burdened by the plight of young girls entrapped in sex slavery.

I had been connected to Adam as an expert on the issue and wanted to learn more about how I could help these girls. At that time I was early in my research and still believed the vast majority of young girls entrapped in sex slavery lived in Cambodia and Thailand.

I had no idea there were girls here in Ohio.

I asked Adam, "What can I do as an Ob/Gyn to help these girls in Cambodia and Thailand?"

He responded, "Why do you want to go to Cambodia and Thailand?"

"Because that's where the girls are," I answered

"Where do you live?"

"Ohio," I said.

"You have girls there, somewhere between one to two thousand."

I was stunned.

"What's being done to help them?"

"Nothing...most authorities either don't know about the issue or don't know what to do with these girls," Adam answered.

"What do they need?"

Without any hesitation, Adam responded, "They need a specialized rehabilitation facility where they can go and get help to put their lives back together."

"Are there any facilities in Ohio?" I asked.

Adam answered, "There are none in Ohio. The closest specialized facility to you is in Atlanta."

Without knowing exactly why, I asked "What is the best location for this specialized facility?"

Once again, without hesitation, Adam answered, "Ideally about 45-60 minutes outside a major city, either in a small city or even better, a rural town"

Again I was stunned. I knew just the place..and that's when God spoke into my heart and gave me a name...Gracehaven.

At that moment He called me to start a home here in Ohio for girls under 18 who were victims of sex trafficking...and He wanted the home called "Gracehaven."

For a variety of reasons, including my resistance to the monumental task of starting this specialized home, very little progress on Gracehaven was made in 2005 and 2006. But in 2007, I was able to research other existing facilities and visited Children of the Night, an organization in California that has been serving these victims since the 1970's.

In my ongoing research, I also discovered a report released in 2007 from the Department of Health and Human Services finding there were only 45 specialized beds in the entire country for girls under 18 who were victims of sex trafficking.

This further convinced me of the need to move forward with Gracehaven. So in early 2008, I assembled a team of people to constitute a Board of Directors to formally start Gracehaven as a nonprofit organization.  We had our first Board meeting in my living room on February 20, 2008.

God blessed our first four years in tremendous ways. We were able to raise adequate funds to purchase a house sitting on 10 acres, and with the help of some amazing volunteers, we finished a complete renovation of the house in Fall 2011. The renovation included preparing five bedrooms for girls, a completely new kitchen, dining room and living room as well as a new large room to be used as a school room. The only major hurdle that remained was obtaining a license from the State of Ohio to operate a rehabilitative facility for minors.

However in 2012, through a series of events, God allowed me to leave Gracehaven and assume a much wider role in the fight against human trafficking.

Evidence began to surface that victims of human trafficking commonly come into the healthcare setting while they were being trafficked. These victims were rarely identified within healthcare settings because fewer than 3% of healthcare professionals have been trained on human trafficking. Thus a desperate need to train healthcare professionals on human trafficking, and as a physician, I began to travel across the country to meet that need, working with another nonprofit called Hope for Justice.

Recent research has confirmed that almost 88% of victims of domestic minor sex trafficking encounter healthcare professionals while being trafficked, yet very few are identified and assisted.

In my ongoing role training healthcare professionals, wherever I travel, I'm confronted with the lack of adequate facilities to rehabilitate victims of human trafficking, especially minor victims.

Facilities just like Gracehaven.

Here in Ohio, the Attorney General's office estimates that there are approximately 1,000 victims of sex trafficking under age 18, with only a handful of specialized beds to care for them.

Gracehaven has undergone some major changes, including coming under the auspices of Central Ohio Youth for Christ (COYFC). COYFC has a solid reputation working with troubled youth, many of whom have been trafficked or are at risk of being trafficked.

And in August 2015, we received the state license to operate a facility for minors. And not long after, we opened the Gracehaven house with our first resident.

The need is great...the Lord desires for many young victims to be helped through His Gracehaven. I encourage you to support the work in whatever way you can.