The Journey of Journey Out
Formerly known as The Mary Magdalene Project, Journey Out is an LA-based nonprofit organization that advocates for, and provides services to, survivors of human trafficking and sexual exploitation of any kind. The staff at Journey Out work diligently each day to tend to the specific needs of their clientele. Every day, their clients have different requirements and it is important that the staff is not only patient with the clients but also non-judgmental. Since the victims have faced varying levels of trauma in their lives, it is pivotal that those working for Journey Out are sensitive towards the subjects that they are dealing with. Executive Director of Journey Out, Dr. Stephanie Powell, states that “[t]he people who work for Journey Out are extremely passionate about the work that they do and are the driving force of the organization.”
Dr. Powell is one of 11 staff members at Journey Out. Her desire to work in the field of anti-trafficking started when she was Vice Sergeant for the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), where her last assignment in vice was dealing with cases of prostitution. The city of Los Angeles is among the top three high-intensity child prostitution areas in all of the United States and commercial sex-trafficking is a consistent issue in that region. After working as a police officer in law enforcement, Dr. Powell quickly realized that the issue of prostitution was not simply going to go away just by incarcerating these men, women, and children, but that the issue stemmed deeper and needed to be looked at with a closer lens. Instead, the victims of forced prostitution and sexual exploitation required services to cope with the trauma.
When it came time for retirement, Dr. Powell looked into putting her passion for advocating against human trafficking by volunteering for Journey Out, but when she saw an Executive Director position open up within the organization at that time, she seized the opportunity and has not looked back since! As an Executive Director of a small nonprofit organization, she admits that she wears a lot of hats. She works with several other organizations and personnel to spread Journey Out’s message, works with funding and budgets, creates training programs for first responders on how to identify victims of human trafficking, does administrative work and also oversees the rest of the employees of Journey Out.
Other than Dr. Powell the staff consists of three part-time employees and eight full-time workers, including seven caseworkers, a program director, a director of communications, and a bookkeeper. The staff caters to a large clientele base that constitutes mainly of adult survivors of human trafficking. Some of these survivors are children, males, and transgenders; however, the majority of the clients that come in are usually females. These people are often in tricky situations with their pimps and are looking for a way out of the cruel system.
Journey Out has numerous ways of reaching out to their clientele. There is a drop-in center where the city attorney’s office gives those arrested for prostitution the chance to participate in a prostitution diversion program that has around 8-18 classes which are empowerment sessions instructed by survivors of human trafficking. In these classes, Journey Out’s message is relayed to the victims. A majority of Journey Out’s client base originates from these classes. Further, Journey Out works closely with the LAPD, and when completing sting operations around prostitution, the caseworkers spend time at the station giving out information about the diversion programs and Journey Out. Often times Journey Out works with client referrals from the LAPD as well. Individuals work day and night to ensure that everyone receives the services they direly need. Crisis Response Teams will go out and assess specific needs even if is the middle of the night. Therefore, the whole process is a group effort.
Dr. Powell claims that roughly 70% of her workday consists of working collaboratively with her staff to brainstorm effective solutions to help their clientele. Her favorite part of this job is meeting clients and watching them blossom into confident individuals post-trauma because of the services provided by Journey Out.
I also had a chance to connect with Mary David, the Director of Communications and her favorite part of the job is being able to combine features of “...artistic design, outreach, public relations, and media engagement in a really beautiful way.” She finds it to be an honor to be able to “...tell stories that are compelling, impactful, and really serve an incredible purpose.”
The staff at Journey Out do an extremely admirable job when it comes to not internalizing the trauma that their clients have suffered and continue to face every day. Journey Out’s impact is evidently long-lasting through their constant efforts, and over the next decade, Journey Out’s growth is guaranteed. Dr. Powell hypothesizes that as awareness of the nonprofit organization’s message increases and is spread across the nation, more resources and funding will be allocated towards helping those coming out of human trafficking and sexual exploitation which is the heart of Journey Out.
I would like to thank both Dr. Stephanie Powell, as well as, Mary David, for taking the time to speak with me to ensure that I had a deeper understanding of what Journey Out is all about, their vision for the organization’s growth and passion for its message truly speak volumes. The work this organization is doing will no doubt inspire individuals to educate themselves and others about anti-human trafficking efforts.
About the Author
Mrinalini Nagarajan is a junior at University of Maryland, College Park studying Criminology & Criminal Justice as her major and Cybersecurity and Spanish as her minors. In her free time, she likes to work for her school's athletics department, watch Game of Thrones, only seasons 1-8 of How I Met Your Mother, F.R.I.E.N.D.S., Dexter, and Parks & Recreation, plan creative events, and take really long naps. She is super excited to be partnering with Dressember to publish educational content regarding the fight to end modern day slavery.