How Restore NYC Helps Sex Trafficking Survivors Find Safety and Stability

February 13, 2020
Restore NYC blog post

My name is Beisi and I work as a Counselor Advocate at Restore NYC, an organization that exists to end sex trafficking in New York and restore the well-being and independence of foreign-national survivors. 

About a year ago, I first met with a client named “Ying.” Ying was 19 years old when her family’s bakery in China fell deeply into debt. Feeling tremendous pressure to ease their financial stress, Ying decided to travel to the U.S. to earn money. Before leaving, Ying was connected with a “friend” from her community, who told her that he had a job available in New York City where she would make $300 an hour providing massage. 

When Ying arrived at JFK airport, a driver picked her up and drove her to a hotel in Midtown Manhattan, where she was brought to a room and instructed by an older woman to take money from a customer and then “please him.” Ying knew no English and was unfamiliar with her surroundings. Feeling that she had nowhere to go and no one to turn to, she stayed. For the next 7 months, Ying was taken from hotel to hotel in different parts of New York City until a compassionate stranger directed her to a church, where a congregant put her in touch with Restore.

During our first meeting, Ying was pretty quiet, closed off, and defensive. It was clear that she did not trust me. In our counseling sessions, we began utilizing a psychotherapy treatment called eye movement desensitization reprocessing (EMDR), which is internationally recognized as one of the top interventions for treating trauma. Our sessions were intense, but Ying continued coming back week after week. Over time, her demeanor changed and her mental health began to improve significantly. 

Needing a safe place to live after leaving her trafficker, Ying also entered into safe housing through Restore’s Safehome, the first transitional home on the east coast dedicated to foreign-national survivors of trafficking. At the Safehome, Ying found a sense of stability, tranquility, and community with the other women, who became a strong support system for her. 

Today, Ying is not only living in safe housing but has a job working in a restaurant kitchen with opportunities to grow. She’s still living in the Safehome but hopes to find an apartment of her own with the help of our flexible funding initiative. When Ying and I meet now, she is confident, uninhibited, and full of jokes. Sometimes it feels like I’m meeting with a different person—a person who is now free to be herself. 

At Restore, we praise God for how he overcame Ying’s fears and gave her the courage to leave her trafficking situation. And as we look back on over a decade of working in the anti-trafficking field, we remember all the survivors whom God has restored and empowered in this city. His power triumphs over the power of sexual violence. Even in the midst of the darkness and brokenness of sex trafficking, we know this story ends in victory.