Outrunning human trafficking and domestic violence

Victory run poster. Photo by Adahlia Thomas

About 40 people went to Tom Brown Park to support and participate in Saturday’s 2nd Annual 5K Victory Run, coordinated by Angel Wingz Family Crisis and Intervention Center. 

Founded in 2017 by Wendy Strickland, Angel Wingz is a ministry that is passionate about helping victims of human trafficking and domestic violence move from victims to victories. Strickland founded the organization because she wanted to intervene in victims’ lives before it was too late. 

“My aunt was murdered in a domestic violence relationship. She was also trafficked in 1986; all those years, I wondered, ‘What could we have done to help change somebody’s life?’ And now we have an organization,” Strickland said. 

Human trafficking involves “the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act,” according to the Department of Homeland Security. The Human Trafficking Hotline concluded in 2019 that Florida had the third highest number of human trafficking cases reported; the first and second highest are California and Texas. 

Domestic violence is also a pressing issue in the community. According to the CDC, one in four women and one in seven men will experience physical violence by their intimate partner at some point during their lifetime. 

“We’ve also heard the story that says, ‘If he doesn’t beat me, he doesn’t love me,’” Strickland said. “And what we do is … help them [victims] identify that they’re in domestic violence.” 

Beth Burns, director of Chelsea House, Ministries, has been working with Strickland for about six years, and has helped several victims escape their situations. “We’ve done some undercover operations …we’ve got plenty of clothes, we’ve got wigs, and we can dye your hair,” Burns said. “We’d say, ‘You want to get out?’  We’ll get you out.’” 

In the last two years, Angel Wingz Family Crisis and Intervention Center has helped 82 families out of domestic violence situations and has helped 43 families out of human trafficking. 

Since January is National Human Trafficking Prevention month, it is important that the community is aware of the mental damage that can occur in these situations. 

Denyece Roberts suggests that victims of human trafficking and domestic violence seek counseling. “When we go to counseling, we are releasing ourselves to ourselves. What that means is learning how to use coping strategies to work with what has been done to us by perpetrators,” Roberts said.

Roberts is a mental health therapist and practices at Peaceful Resolutions. 

At the end of the race, Angel Wingz Family Crisis and Intervention Center, raised more than $1,000 to go toward expanding its ministry and helping more victims. 

If you, or a loved one, is experiencing, or have experienced human trafficking or domestic violence, call the National Human Trafficking Resource Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or at 1-888-373-7888 or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-3224.