What do we offer?*
Villa Talita is a safe house for our target group that was opened in the fall of 2012. The house, located at a secret address, consists of four rooms and a kitchen. Villa Talita provides a place where the police, social services, and other authorities can send women who need urgent help and protection. Overnight staff are present in the villa when required, and otherwise there are daytime staff and a 24/7 hotline. We are able to welcome women regardless of whether another authority pays for her expenses or not, which allows us to even welcome undocumented women exploited in prostitution or human trafficking for sexual purposes.
We use an environment-therapy approach, offering a stable social environment that enables the women to work through their trauma and develop as a person. The women acquire a broad set of skills through their daily activities performed together with the staff. We also hold regular group discussions about the practical and social details of living in Villa Talita. This environment-therapy approach impacts every aspect of our work and it continues throughout the entire time the client lives at Villa Talita.
Acute help and protection*
If the police, social services, or another authority wants to place a woman with us, they are able to reach us on our 24/7 hotline. When a woman arrives, she immediately receives her own room where she can unwind and feel safe. We provide food, hygiene articles, clothes, and support in every way we can through counselling (with the help of translation if needed), being present at the police’s interrogation, etc. In most cases, the woman goes through a preliminary investigation and may eventually participate in a trial.
Each woman that comes to Talita is asked whether she would like to stay and participate in our one-year program. The majority that we meet prefer to return home as quickly as possible, especially when they have families in their home country. We help them to apply to the return program that has been developed by the Country Government (Länsstyrelsen) in collaboration with the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
County Government’s (Länsstyrelsen’s) return program (http://www.lansstyrelsen.se/stockholm/Sv/manniska-och-samhalle/jamstalldhet/prostitutionochmanniskohandel/Pages/tryggare-atervandande.aspx)
Long term support - Talita's program*
The women who contact us and want to move into Villa Talita agree to take part in a twelve-month rehabilitation program. The program consists of teaching, trauma therapy, voluntary Bible-studies, and planning for the future. Additionally, the women take care of the house and the premises, and have the opportunity to work or study. We offer massage/tactile stimulation, practical help, excursions, art therapy, physical training, assistance with Swedish, and beyond this, they also have time for work or studies.
Most women who come to us are initially in very low spirits. Having adopted different survival strategies to push down their trauma, receiving help and beginning to open up can be both freeing and unnerving. It is freeing in the sense that their urge to finally speak to someone is strong, but it increases anxiety because they are forced to finally face the pain. We want to offer a safe environment where difficult events can be worked through and the individual receives the tools needed to leave a destructive behaviour. All conversations occur in the presence of certified trauma therapists, specialized in working with individuals who have been exposed to sexual abuse.
A deeper knowledge of trauma and its consequences is an important part of the healing process for a vulnerable individual. It leads namely to an increased understanding of the individual’s own reactions and behaviour, which in turn increases self-esteem and diminishes anxiety. Previously, we used psycho-education as a part of the trauma therapy, but this education is now being assembled into a book that we will use during the group educational sessions we have every week throughout the year. The self-strengthening lessons we offer comprise of topics such as child development, shame, ‘the inner child’, the brain and memories, boundary setting, and dealing with strong emotions.
Planning for the future
Each week we sit down with each woman separately and support them in planning their finances, creating a budget, calling authorities, filling in forms, and discussing the measures that need to be taken in order for them to reach their goals and for their life to function. During the transition period (4 months), this aspect of the program becomes the main focus in order to find the woman’s next living accommodations and employment for the future.
After the program
After the twelve-month program, the transition period begins and lasts 4 months. During this ‘next step’, the focus becomes finding alternatives for the future that each woman has. Our mission is not completed until the woman has somewhere to live, can provide for herself, and has a functioning life.
Each woman that takes part in our program gets their own mentor. A mentor is a person that has completed our volunteer education and will offer their time and engagement to support and help a client in a variety of ways. This can be in the form of visits where they simply hang out together, helping the woman with school, language, or other life skills, or even going on an excursion together. The hope is that each woman will stay in long term contact with her mentor, even after she has moved to the transitional apartment and/or when she finds her own apartment and is supporting herself. We are so extremely thankful for our dedicated mentors.
Talita Center is our office consisting of three rooms and a kitchen (office space, therapy room, and studio for creative work) where clients come and receive support during the day. In our experience, each woman requires a holistic approach to their situation. It is quite common that they have been sent around to different authorities and NGOs without feeling seen or heard as individuals. Talita Center is where a large portion of our activities take place.
Talita's Transition Apartement*
Thanks to our transition apartment – a three room apartment in the Stockholm area where two people at a time can live – we can extend our support to the women by one additional year, giving us even more time to explore opportunities for the future.