The Story Behind Project 49
For most people, the traumas of sex trafficking and the exploitation of women exist only in movies, television shows, and the occasional news headline or soundbite. The horrific reality of young girls and women coerced or forced into the sex trade - an experience shared by over 20 million women and girls worldwide - is often misunderstood, forgotten, or simply ignored.
These traumatic experiences in early and adult life too frequently give way to substance use disorders, homelessness, abuse, poverty, and incarceration. Even for those women who are able to break free from the sex trade or overcome addiction, everyday family and financial challenges can give way to a strong urge to fall back on a more familiar and harmful lifestyle.
DIVAS Who Win was born out of the pain and trials of Chanda Santana’s personal experiences with substance use disorder and the sex trade, and also of her successful efforts to help rescue her 17-year-old daughter from a family of sex traffickers. Chanda's daughter and her friend were the 50th and 51st women identified as possible trafficking victims by a particular family of sex traffickers by the FBI. Both women received justice as the person who trafficked them received a 20-year sentence. But justice eluded the other 49. Project 49 is about remembering these women and all those lost in the system after their rescue. It’s about supporting more women, bringing justice to those who need it, and reintegrating these survivors back into their local communities.
Through experiences of recovery and redemption, we’ve established a mission to provide connection and community among women with shared experiences, encouraging them to grow together and begin healing without the fear of shame or stigma. Whether a woman has been living in recovery for decades or is at the dawn of her rehabilitation process, we recognize and celebrate each DIVA on their personal journey to freedom.
DIVAS Who Win serves women on a path to wellness through two core services. Our Freedom Center is a safe and dignified place for women in recovery to land, where each staff member is also a trauma survivor. This unique and acute understanding shows the women who walk through our doors that healing is not just possible, but well within their grasp. The Freedom Center focuses on restoring dignity and dissolving shame by providing women free access to an array of wellness, recovery, and work-readiness programs, and by offering diverse activities and experiences via an art center, self-care parlor, leisure room, and spiritual center.