For some victims of human trafficking or similar crimes, healing could begin through therapy or support groups. NYC-and-Texas-based Beauty for Freedom (BFF) aims to help survivors heal with a paintbrush by creating art depicting their experiences.
According to their website, Beauty for Freedom is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization “whose mission is to battle the crisis of human trafficking and empower survivors, raises revenue for survivors in the U.S.A and Around the World, with a fresh approach of self-worth and empowerment through the arts.”
The non-profit group offers art therapy at no cost to survivors of trafficking & at-risk youth who have experienced trauma.
CEO of Beauty for Freedom, Monica Watkins, said the organization’s goal is to “use art as a tool to heal, to show these survivors they are amazing at whatever they choose to do in life.”
The BFF web page states that volunteers with the program have provided over 20,000 hours of help for survivors. BFF has also published two books featuring photographs from survivors.
Initially, the group planned to form its own workshop and gallery in 2019, but those plans were postponed due to the pandemic. However, The Gallery at Legacy West in Plano agreed to host an exhibition for BFF. In total, three North Texas trafficking survivor associations came together to set up the one-day show in September, which was titled “The Art of Freedom.”
One popular piece in the show featured a collage and painting of a woman rising above her past pain into a better future. The work is aptly titled “Freedom.” The artist, who chose to remain unnamed, was thrilled to see the art finally displayed in such a grand way.
“After two years of healing and restoration, it was a very emotional experience when I saw it again. I remember the exact frame of mind and the thoughts I was thinking when I was making this.” The “Freedom” artist is currently working towards a doctorate in psychology.
The members of the non-profit group also travel abroad to help indigenous communities in places such as Ghana and Haiti. They hope to provide a safe zone for victims to share their experiences and seek help.
“Victims of human trafficking are among society’s most vulnerable, with limited access to supportive resources. Due to systemic distrust of law enforcement and emotional manipulation by traffickers, victims generally do not self-disclose,” the BFF website states.
If you’d like to donate to Beauty for Freedom, visit beautyforfreedom.org for more information.