Sakinah Love: Changing the game by helping women break free from trafficking

Cherri Gregg
February 13, 2020 - 4:00 am
Sakinah Love

Cherri Gregg/KYW Newsradio

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Sakinah Love’s last name explains it all.

She has dedicated her life to helping women who were or are being sexually exploited.

“The women we help … are severely drug-addicted and many have been dealing with drug addiction since they were teenagers,” she said of the work she does through the nonprofit she founded, Redeemed For A Cause Outreach. “And now they are adults who are dealing with trauma.”

Redeemed For A Cause Outreach works to end human trafficking. Love became inspired after a mission trip to Thailand five years ago, where she witnessed women and children being exploited for sex.

“It is modern-day slavery,” she explained. “People are using force, fraud or coercion to get people to have sex.”

Quickly, she realized that human trafficking — a criminal enterprise that rakes in $150 billion each year worldwide — is happening in her own city of Philadelphia. Love learned that girls were forced to trade sex for a place to stay, food, clothing or in exchange for drugs. 

“The people that are involved in it don't want to talk about it,”she said. “Traffickers are not always pimps or drug dealers. Sometimes they are pastors or teachers or even a drug-addicted parent that sells sex with their child, for example, in exchange for drugs.”

Love and her team — who are all survivors of various traumas — go to the areas that these women frequent and provide them with food, clothing, toiletries and other support, like access to Bible study or trauma counseling.

Redeemed For A Cause Outreach
Courtesy of Redeemed For A Cause Outreach

Redeemed For A Cause Outreach
Courtesy of Redeemed For A Cause Outreach

Their work started in West Philadelphia two years ago, where they mainly assisted African-American women. Their efforts have since expanded to South Philadelphia, where the population is more diverse. The methods of outreach remain the same.

“We tell them that they are loved and are worthy and don't need to sell their bodies,” Love added.

Among the organization’s successes: Love’s team shut down a known site for sex trafficking. They helped women get off the street. And, they created two drop-in centers — one at 51st and Spruce streets, and another at Moyamensing Avenue and South Seventh Street. The centers provide a safe place for the women to come, clean up and rest. It also offers free HIV testing, hepatitis A prevention kits, snacks and other group therapies. When and if they’re ready, the nonprofit provides transportation to take them to recovery centers.

“The thing that makes our organization unique is that there is no judgment,” Love said. “This is a no judgment zone, whether the women come in or not.”

GCRedeemed For A Cause Outreach
Cherri Gregg/KYW Newsradio

Love said their success comes from the group's steady, positive influence.

“The consistency of us telling her ‘we are here,’ ” she added, “us just being here as a shoulder.”

Love understands how difficult it can be, because she, too, was a victim of sexual violence.

“Mine was through coercion,” she recalled. “It came from a boyfriend, so I thought I had to do what I had to do.” 

She ended that relationship long ago and has since been in a healthy marriage, but she will never forget how she compromised her own safety for what she thought was love.

“A lot of times, women are more willing to stay and be in a situation because they think ‘at least he loves me,’ ” said Love.

She speaks at schools to raise awareness about the issue to hundreds of at-risk teen girls.

“We let the girls know that they are loved and that they are worthy, that they don't have to use drugs and don't have to sell their bodies to get the things they want.”

Love hopes to create more shelters and safe houses for women who are trafficked, and to raise more awareness so people comprehend the nuances of human trafficking, because “it could be your niece or granddaughter.”

Overall, Love is changing the game by helping women break free.

“It's exhausting and overwhelming at times, but it's very rewarding,” she said. “This is my calling, and God gave it to me because he knew I'd do something with it.”

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Gamechangers is led by KYW Newsradio's community affairs reporter Cherri Gregg. It recognizes 10 individuals or organizations that are making a positive impact on communities of color. 

For a full list of 2020’s Gamechangers, check back here. One honoree will be announced each weekday between Feb. 10 and 21. The awards ceremony takes place on Feb. 27 at The Met Philadelphia.