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Providing Safe Homes for Survivors

Global Strategic Operatives, GSO, was co-founded by Deb O’Hara-Rusckowski, a Delegate and Special Advisor on Human Trafficking to the Ambassador for the Sovereign Order of Malta Mission to the United Nations, after a high-level meeting of leaders and stakeholders was held at the UN in November 2018. It was decided to focus on training healthcare professionals across the globe on how to identify a victim who is being trafficked (including all forms of trafficking: sex trafficking, labor trafficking, and organ harvesting) and to take appropriate action. The rationale for choosing to focus on healthcare is studies and data show that 88-92% of all survivors sought out medical care while being trafficked. If not trained, the victims fall through the cracks of the healthcare system and do not receive the help that is critically needed and remain in the ‘life” until help is offered. GSO also helps healthcare sites develop their own internal human trafficking policy and protocols. The UN Pilot Study has collected all policies from the US & International sites trained to create a common, universal “Human Trafficking Policy & Protocol for Healthcare Providers.” This was submitted to the WHO at the UN on September 29, 2022, and is currently under review for adoption and implementation worldwide.

Now that we have had major success in training over 500,000 healthcare providers and ancillary staff, we are moving forward with an additional mission: providing safe homes for survivors. We realize the more the healthcare systems identify victims, the greater the need for accurate placement for healing to help them on their journey to becoming survivors. GSO has established a good relationship with law enforcement and Homeland Security to assist in placement of victims. We also have partnered with a few Catholic, pro-life woman's health care facilities and have trained & hired orthodox Catholic Sisters to provide a loving, nurturing presence in the home for the victims' rehabilitation. All staff will be trained by GSO and we will teach Trauma Informed Care, with a Victim-centered approach. We, along with the American Association Order of Malta, also created a “Volunteer On-Line Modular Training Course” which any and all volunteers should complete prior to starting their volunteer work.

One specific home located in MA, is named The O’Connell House. It has been renovated to accept women who have been trafficked and may be pregnant or with a small child. It is a former rectory and has 15 very large bedrooms—enough to fit an extra crib or twin bed in addition to the double bed. Each bedroom also has its own private bathroom. There are 4 rooms utilized by Sisters, thus leaving 11 rooms for residents. The house has an industrial size kitchen and laundry, as well as office space, meeting rooms, large dining area, an exercise area, clinical room with clinician office area, and a beautiful Chapel with local priests offering daily Mass. The historic building has passed all inspections with two final renovations planned: the elevator repair (estimated to be complete by end of December 2022) and sprinkler system installation (hopefully by end of January 2023.)

The O’Connell House hopes to partner with local crisis pregnancy centers as well as the local hospital(s) for primary care, emergency care, OBGyn care and mental health services. GSO, Homeland Security, and Healthcare Systems will work together to fill the house with residents.

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