There’s a misconception that girls rescued from trafficking situations must be extremely grateful. Not so, says Angie Brower.
“You have girls who have been forcibly addicted to drugs and are now hooked,” she says. “Some think that their trafficker is their boyfriend, or the other girls (in the same situation) are their family.
“You have to know going in that their reaction comes from a place of trauma.”
Brower, an adjunct social work instructor at Missouri Southern and survivor care director for Rapha International, recently made a virtual presentation to delegates from the United Nations on tools used to assess those who are experiencing intense and complicated trauma issues.
Her presentation to nearly 100 UN delegates and representatives from non-governmental organizations focused on serving Haiti took place on July 1 as part of a conference being held in Port-au-Prince.
“The presentation was mostly focused on the Assessment of Survivor Outcomes (ASO) tool and the social-work services that Rapha International provides,” she says.
Developed by the International Justice Mission, ASO is a scientific tool used in more than two dozen countries to assess trauma survivors. It addresses issues such as mental, physical and emotional well-being, economic empowerment and education, social support and the potential for reintegration into their community.
“All of those areas need to be assessed in order to see what will help them best move past trauma,” says Brower.
Founded in 2003, Rapha International serves child victims of human trafficking at two facilities in Cambodia, one in Thailand and another in Haiti. They also offer a preventative Kids Club program in Cambodia and Thailand to help meet the needs of at-risk youth. Additionally, the organization’s Hope & Healing Center at their Joplin headquarters works with children, teens and adults.
Brower’s ties with Rapha run deep, as her father and sister are the co-founders.
Joe Garman was in Cambodia on a mission trip and was able to intervene when traffickers tried to seize a girl in a village he was visiting. Upon his return, his daughter Stephanie researched the issue of sex trafficking and how they could help. Their work resulted in the creation of Rapha – which means “healing” in Hebrew.
Brower says her family’s work helped her settle on a path as she prepared to continue her education.
“I wasn’t sure if I wanted to get my master’s in psychology or social work,” she says. “This cinched it for me because I knew if we did this, did it right and on the scale we wanted to, we would be dealing with a lot of social workers.”
As survivor care director, Brower oversees the on-site clinic and works with social workers and counselors overseas to ensure Rapha’s trauma-care programs are meeting the best standards.
Gerso Nozea, Rapha’s country director in Haiti, asked Brower to fill in for the UN presentation as he was unable to attend. There was just one problem, however.
“All of the French and Creole interpreters were being used (elsewhere),” Brower says. “No one had been scheduled for this presentation.”
One day before the presentation, she reached out to the Foreign Language Department at Joplin High School and connected with French teacher Ryan Burnside.
“That was gutsy (of him),” she says. “He very bravely came in bright and early the next morning to be my interpreter. He did a bang-up job.”
Brower says her work with Rapha International has shaped her approach to teaching, especially when it comes to awareness of sex and labor trafficking – the two are often tied together – and other exploitation issues.
“Most students are surprised to discover that it happens right here in Joplin. Rapha doesn’t have a safe house here because there are governmental avenues already in existence. But I teach students to recognize the signs.
“We also talk just about trauma in general, and how it can affect a person’s reactions. It has definitely informed the way I teach.”