My name is Haley Felix, and I am a senior at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, Oklahoma! I love new adventures and trying things outside of my comfort zone, but biking was never something I thought I would get into. Before I was introduced to Pedal the Pacific and the mission it stands for, I was as naïve as they come and knew almost nothing about human trafficking. Despite the coast still being 2 ½ months away, PTP has already been such a journey of growth for me. Sex trafficking is something that so many people subconsciously turn a blind eye to because they don’t understand the gruesomeness of the crime and don’t grasp the prevalence it has all around the country. However, now that I have done more research and have a significantly better understanding of the crime, my passiveness in the subject is something of the past. My heart now physically breaks for these young girls and I am joining the fight against sex trafficking with my 9 other PTP 2019 teammates to shed a light on this crime.
Something unique to my story with Pedal the Pacific is that it has been a huge starting point for what I want to do in my future career. After I graduate in May, I plan on attending graduate school for mental health counseling, and PTP has fully opened my mind to an entire new world of mental health. It inspired me to go through over 40 hours of training throughout the past Christmas Break to learn about trauma survivors and the importance of their individualistic type of care; more specifically, trauma-informed care. Trauma-informed care looks to understand how specific experiences of trauma in the individual’s life have affected them thus far and how they will continue to affect them moving forward. As a trauma-victim advocate you have to understand that these people are victims, not criminals. The lens you see your client through can be a major turning point in the approach you take towards their care. For example, if a person was forced to do things they didn’t want to do for 2 years, especially in a human trafficking setting, it is likely that telling them exactly how to recover and what steps to take will make them run the other direction or even back into the direction they came from. On the other hand, taking a trauma-informed approach could look like allowing the victim to make some decisions towards their growth and recovery on their own. These young girls have been forced to do so much in their lifetime and it is imperative that they are given freedom to make their own decisions in order to grow, learn, trust, and recover long-term.
As someone who wants to go into counseling, I know that mental health is extremely valuable, but for people who have gone through trauma, there needs to be a different approach to the care that they receive. Some girls will have been trafficked a couple times in their life, and others have experienced complex trauma from a very young age. They may come from very different backgrounds, and they need a place like the Refuge Ranch to give them opportunities to fully recover. The Refuge provides therapy of all kinds that will meet the needs of every girl that comes there. The Refuge Ranch is designed not only to accommodate for their therapy needs but also for their long-term care. They are met in a way that makes them feel safe and well-cared for. Whatever situation these girls are coming out of, The Refuge Ranch is built to accommodate their complex needs. These 11-19-year-old girls often don’t have the resources available to meet their basic needs, let alone help them work through the complex trauma that they’ve experienced. One of my favorite goals that the Refuge has is to treat every young girl that walks through the doors as if she was one of their own daughters. They don’t cut corners in the delicacy of the care they provide because they know that, if done right, it has the full potential to change everything for someone.
Eradicating human trafficking is something that every one of us can play a role in, and I’m proud to be a vessel to help raise awareness about this issue. There is such an importance to understanding how prevalent it is in our country so that we can take action to end sex trafficking in the United States. I’m honored to spend my summer with nine other girls that are pedaling to join the fight against human trafficking, and to support an organization that is actively changing the futures and lives of these young girls.