Aspen Magdalene House will be Utah’s first housing for Utah victims

We believe Utah human Trafficking victims deserve healing, dignity and opportunity

Our proven model gives survivors of trafficking way to move forward

75% are living successful, financially independent lives 5 years after graduation

Our Model

Thistle Farms with 25 years of experience and 64 US communities.

Our Moto

Love heals. Love is the most powerful force for good in the world.

Our Mission

Provide a safe place for healing and a path to self-sufficiency

Human Trafficking is happening in every state including Utah

Myths and Misconceptions About Human Trafficking

Myth: Human Trafficking victims are only foreign born individuals or those who are poor

Fact: Human trafficking victims can be any age, race, gender, or nationality. They may come from any socioeconomic group. A socioeconomic group is the social standing or class of an individual or group. It is often measured as a combination of education, income and occupation.

Human trafficking is always or usually a violent crime

The most pervasive myth about human trafficking is that it often involves kidnapping or physically forcing someone into a situation. In reality, most traffickers use psychological means such as, tricking, defrauding, manipulating or threatening victims into providing commercial sex or exploitative labor.

Traffickers target victims they don’t know

Many survivors have been trafficked by romantic partners, including spouses, and by family members, including parents.

Human trafficking is second to drug trade in criminal activity at $150 billion and growing

Thistle Farms is a proven model of care.

Aspen Magdalene House will be Utah’s first Thistle Farms house for Utah victims.

There are 64 Thistle Farm communities nation-wide.

A 3-pronged approach.

75% are living successful, financially independent lives 5 years after graduation.

Safe Housing

Aspen House will provide shelter, care and healing over 2 years.

Meaningful Job

An social enterprise teaches residents valuable skills.

Lifelong Support

Surrounded by a sisterhood of support that lasts a lifetime.

Give Utah sex trafficking victims
the opportunity to be healed in state

 Aspen Magdalene House will be Utah’s first Thistle Farms house for Utah victims and survivors.

While 32 states have Thistle Farms communities, Aspen House will be the first in Utah.

A month of care

$1,250

(less than our penal system and more successful)

A year of care

$15,000/per month

(less than our penal system and more successful)

A lifetime of Care

$30,000 /per month

(less than our penal system and more successful)

Utah is not immune to human trafficking

 

There were 251 Utah known victims in 2019.

Polaris Project estimates human trafficking increased by 40% during the pandemic, due to housing insecurity

Police say “not even the tip of the iceberg”

    • On March 24, 2022, twenty-four were arrested in Utah sex trafficking operation
    • In October 2021, a Bountiful man was charged with multiple felony charges of human trafficking.
    • In September 2021, the AG’s office busted 6 massage parlors exploiting young women in Utah and SLC counties. 
    • In December 2020, a sex trafficking bust resulted in 18 Weber Country arrests.

Meet Brandy and Brittney 

Brittany and Brandy are two Utah women who survived being sex trafficked and are helping lead Aspen House development.

Anyone can fall victim to human trafficking. However, vulnerable populations with little social and legal protection are most at risk.  70% are women and risk may be higher where more extreme gender discrimination exists. 

Thistle Farms is a survivor led organization.

A heartbreaking beginning but a hopefully future 

The neon red and blue flickering lights reflect off the Vice Squad car onto the back window and shined onto my sister’s face. I only imagined the worst outcome. My world and my life would change, but how? 

Brittney and Brandy Garcia’s childhood didn’t reflect the innocence expected as children. It consisted of broken bottles leaving the shagged carpets matted down and stained, angry parents whose addictions felt more valued, which led to a divorce. Waiting on the sofa all night– wide awake with the lights out, so no one suspects we’re home alone. While grasping onto my sister, I hear the crackling of an empty house. Patiently waiting to hear for mom’s lemon to pull into the driveway, only hearing our hearts beating louder and louder consuming the empty room. 

The Garcia sisters would never know safety and security, which lead them into traumatic events in their early adult life. Each traumatic event would soon add up, leading the sisters to become targets of human trafficking. The men offered what seemed to be what the sisters had always been missing – safety and security. The men promised them the world, but only if they would do what they asked. When Brandy met her trafficker, he was good to her. He made sure that she had a place to stay and that she had all the drugs she needed. He fed and clothed her. He listened to her cries night after night because she missed her kids. She considered him her best friend, her everything. She loved him, but the sisters would soon learn these men were evil. 

 

While the men made claims about loving them and offering resources that the sisters needed to survive, there was a catch. The actions of these men weren’t abnormal, they had a motive. They had perfectly crafted a method to groom the sisters slowly. The men would soon earn the trust and love of both sisters. But the love the men gave came with a cost. It wasn’t long after the men gained trust before manipulating the sisters into having sex for money. If the sisters didn’t want to cooperate, the men threatened to harm their family members. 

The sisters knew that they were in a dangerous situation, but thoughts would linger, “what if he takes away my phone, how will I communicate with my children?” “Will they hurt me if I say no?” And “If I tried to leave, where would I even go?”

Eighteen months later, the sisters would see the neon red and blue flickering lights reflecting off the Vice Squad car onto the back window and shining onto each other’s face. Imagining the worst, but soon realizing that they were trafficked for the last time on Jan. 8, 2015: “the Unified Police Department Vice Squad saved our lives.” 

“After years of being sober, we wanted to help other survivors of human trafficking heal from the trauma. Finding a place to heal after surviving human trafficking can be difficult. That’s why working with Aspen Magdalen House will help us increase awareness around human trafficking while simultaneously providing survivors a nourishing home-like residence to thrive in.


One of our board members and her lifetime of dedication to the homeless

She grew up in the slums of London. In a home with a single mother and four siblings. Her father was a gambling man, whose addiction causes him to pack his bags and leave his family. Her home was not like others: infested with rats, piles of coats sat on the beds’ edges due to a heatless house and frigid London winters. While her mother did not obtain an education, Pamela knew her intelligence was her way out. 

At age of 14, Pamela knew she needed to leave the slums for a better life, succeeding in school was the answer. When the time came to submit her application to nursing school, nerves consumed her body. But she soon found out she got accepted along with 50 others beating out 500 other eager young women. 

Arriving on her first day of nursing school, she was different from her peers. Pamela was the only lower-class citizen in the room. While her peers grew up with manicured lawns and fathers with impressive titles, she grew up fighting for a change for something more. To fit in she mimicked her peers– their manners, speech and how they dressed. She wanted to blend. She wanted to belong. Pamela often thought once I’m done with school, “I want to marry a wealthy man and never have to deal with poor people again.” 

A few months later, she found herself sitting in the London Airport on her way to Australia to help the aboriginal people. She was in the delivery room, helping a woman’s journey to motherhood. At this moment, a new mother taught her a lesson. Her idea of life changed. Pamela remembers thinking how humble and kind the aboriginal people were. The lesson she learned was “the small thing we did makes a huge difference in their life.” Her life motto now consumed her, the belief that even a small amount of giving and caring, helps create a powerful impact on someone’s life. 

Pamela journeyed to the United States where she attended the University of California to receive her bachelor’s and later attended the University of Washington for her masters. In the later years, she moved to Salt Lake City, where she became a liaison and ambassador for the governor’s office— teaching the power that each one of us holds within, the power not only to change the lives of others but to change your life at the same time. Once a young child in the slums of London is now best known for her tireless work as an advocate for the homeless, refugees and low-income families in our state. So much so that Governor Gary Herbert has called her “the Mother Teresa of Utah.”


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About 
Thistle Farms
History
After experiencing her father's death and subsequent child abuse when she was 5, Becca Stevens wanted to open a sanctuary for survivors offering a loving community. In 1997, Stevens opened Thistle Farms' first home as a sanctuary for five women survivors. Four years later, the women were making great strides in recovery but struggling to become financially self-sufficient due to employment barriers. Stevens gathered volunteers and her residents to solve this problem and began to make candles in a church basement. After that, Thistle Farms social enterprises were born.
Mission
Thistle Farms is a nonprofit social enterprise dedicated to helping survivors recover and heal from prostitution, trafficking and addiction. Thistle Farms does this by providing a safe place to live, a meaningful job and a lifelong sisterhood of support.
How Love Heals
Together, the community can heal by ensuring access to safe and supportive housing, financial independence and a community of support. Together, we rise against systems that commoditize, criminalize and abuse women.

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