About Servants Anonymous Society (SAS)
Servants Anonymous Society of Calgary provides an extensive, relationship-based, long-term program for women and girls as young as 16, including those who are pregnant or with children, who have experienced or are at risk of sexual exploitation and/or sex trafficking, all of which have been affected by related issues including addiction, trauma, and homelessness.
In addition to two stages of housing which allows women to stabilize and begin the process of healing we also deliver crucial services including: a recovery-oriented, comprehensive Life-skills Program, therapy, a Women’s Health & Wellness Program, employment skills development including paid work experience, an onsite Childcare and Child/Family Development Program, and a long-term Community Follow-Care Service.
What Makes SAS Great?
SAS is a community of people dedicated to helping women rebuild their lives by providing an opportunity for these young women to adopt a healthy lifestyle and integrate back into society.
It all began with a woman, a vision, and a rose. With over 27 years of serving on of Calgary’s most vulnerable populations, SAS was born when in 1989 our Founder began by giving out single roses to women on the street with her contact information and an encouragement to have them to reach out if they needed help. Soon she was sharing her home with young women who wished to leave the sex trade. Together, they created the ‘Corner Club’; a group of women who taught each other through cooking, making crafts, by writing and publishing their stories in ‘Cry of the Streets’. This seemingly small initiative is what lead to the development of Servants Anonymous Society of Calgary (SAS) and its innovative and foundational EXploitation Intervention and Transition (EXIT) Program which provides services to support women seeking to exit a life of sexual exploitation and trafficking.
In 1989, very few organizations were available which acknowledged, let alone addressed the needs of, sexually exploited and trafficked women. There was a crippling social stigma associated with women confronted with the trauma of sex-related crimes. These young women faced challenges in finding employment and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Today, the elements of our Career Network and Work Experience in Fireworks Co-operative increases each woman’s confidence and our combined efforts make a difference in this unique relationship-and-professional business setting.
Enter The EXIT Program
At the heart of the EXIT Program is the belief that healing occurs in the presence of genuine relationships. We believe that a sense of belonging and a feeling of connectedness are crucial for all individuals who have suffered through trauma and abuse that has been present in Participant’s lives. SAS believes in advocacy, appreciation for all and that everyone has an important contribution to make to society. The vital pillars of the EXIT Program include:
A Sector and Social Enterprise Pioneer
“Servants Anonymous is essentially the pioneer of this type of service,” said the Executive Director of SAS Theresa Jenkins. “Nowhere in else in Canada offers the comprehensive services we do. We have Participants coming to SAS from as far as Quebec.”
The Program generally takes one year to eighteen months to complete, at which time Program Participants are ready to enter society as fully participatory and contributive members of the community, independent from SAS. That said, SAS’s outreach program provides past program Participants with lifelong support, should unforeseen circumstances arise.
Before the onsite training opportunities were available at SAS through our Social Enterprise Business, Fireworks Co-operative, many young women faced challenges in finding employment, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Supporting Families as a Family
SAS is the only comprehensive program, offering long-term residential housing and recovery oriented programs to women who have children in their care, allowing them to seek help without having to place their children into the foster care system.
The development and evolution of the EXIT Program has always had the needs of the women at its forefront. This priority is especially evident in the development of the Healthy Families Development pillar. The goal of the program is to strengthen the parenting skills and attachment for women in recovery from trauma and related concerns, improving their families’ healthy functioning; and to support the successful development of their children, effectively ending cycles of abuse, marginalization, and poverty.
Embracing Uncertainty – Expecting Growth
Keeping in line with the most innovative practices and incorporating the latest research is consistently a priority when continuously updating the program curriculum. Additionally, communicating the cause remains a high priority. While education regarding sex trafficking and sexual exploitation is becoming increasingly mainstream, common misconceptions continue to be reinforced and knowledge regarding the magnitude of the problem remains minimal.
With an average recruitment age of 13 to 14 year and an average annual profit from each female trafficked in Canada of $280,000, the need for a program like SAS far exceeds its capacity to serve this extremely vulnerable population. Overwhelming portions of women who are sexually exploited and trafficked in the community (upwards of 90 percent) are homeless at intake into the EXIT Program and suffer from addiction. Additionally, program Participants often have to contend with mental
illness including PTSD, the scars of child abuse from years prior, and a lack of the necessary life skills to build a sustainable life free from the sexual exploitation. It’s precisely the acknowledgement of such complex issues experienced by this population that preceded the development of SAS’s wraparound system of services delivered by the EXIT Program. The program always has a waitlist for future Participants wishing to enter the program, one that can span a few weeks to several months.
Building Hope – Changing Lives
Sexual exploitation and sex trafficking take many forms in our community. Stories from Participants include emotional manipulation and facilitated drug addiction by a romantic partner, to outright kidnapping of victims as young as eleven: “I was first pimped out at the age of eleven,” says an SAS Alumnae. “I was used for child pornography, and was steadily given drugs by my pimp.”
Control tactics employed by traffickers to retain victims in exploitative situations include social isolation, forcible confinement, withholding identification documents, imposing strict rules, limitation of movement, as well as threats and violence to victims and their families. Many victims are groomed, manipulated, and coerced, and sexually exploited with promises of love and understanding.
With a success rate of over 70 percent of program Participants successfully exiting a life of sexual exploitation, SAS has helped exit over 800 women since its inception in 1989. In the 2015 – 2016 fiscal year alone, the overall EXIT Program provided support to 317 women and 234 children. Over the course of our existence, Alumnae have returned saying the knowledge that they were believed in made all the difference in their recovery.
Said a 2016 Participant, “SAS has affected how I interact with and perceive the world as a kind place. This has led me to feel safe enough to dream big. My dreams now seem achievable, and they are.”
“In one year, there is such a transformation,
it brings us to our knees, really,
that women can change like this.”
Theresa Jenkins, SAS Executive Director