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Rethreaded Works To Get Local Women Out Of The Sex Trade


Sitting in an unassuming building on Jacksonville’s Northside, the warehouse of Rethreaded is filled with purses, scarves and other clothing made mostly by recovering victims of human trafficking.Kristin Keen is the company’s founder. She started Rethreaded after returning to Jacksonville from India having spent five years working with sex trade and human trafficking victims there.

"In India we started a business, so I was able to see the power of business and how it affected the sex trade it gave a place for woman to go," she said. "So when I moved back from India I knew I still wanted to have a business that empowered women who had been affected by the sex trade."       

At Rethreaded, victims of human trafficking and the sex trade are brought in to help them turn their lives around.

They are hired at $8.25 an hour into a four-month holistic training program that includes learning sewing, art, design and life skills.

Then the clothing and other items are sold at the warehouse and in several stores on the First Coast with the proceeds used for training purposes and to help more women get out of the sex trade.

Keen said Rethreaded has a global reach.

"Our business model is we've partnered with 12 different companies from around the world who give women employment," she said. "We buy from them and help support their companies  and we take those profit and reinvest them into our employees here. So we've partnered with a couple of different rehabs around the city who refer women who've been affected by the sex trade to us."      

The local women who come to Rethreaded create products made by refurbishing donated t-shirts that are then put up for sale.

Rethreaded hired its first full-time employee in November 2012 and Keen said they’ve had great success getting women out of the dangerous cycle of the sex trade. It’s not easy, since many of the women come with little or no job experience.

"If they do all this hard work to get to this point they can't find a job," She said. "Often it's a job in minimum wage not surrounded by good healthy community."

"So our mission is to give them a safe community where they can come and be training and healed and move them towards economic independence and they can stay within the safety of us and they can raise them up and leaders in our company and that's how we're breaking the cycle."

Keen said she is very happy to see renewed efforts in Florida and elsewhere to highlight the dangers and extent of human trafficking.

She said there is more to the problem than women and girls being kidnapped, taken to another country and forced into prostitution.

"I feel like human trafficking is more often a symptom of something else like vulnerable families, vulnerable girls so if we are not taking care of our community and our girls and our education system the problem will continue and if we don't address the other side of it the demand side we going to keep having this problem as well," she said.   

Rethreaded’s success was rewarded last year when it came in first at the inaugural One Spark Festival, earning more $6,700 in crowdfunding.

Keen is hoping to see more support so they can get other women off the streets and into the workforce.

WJCT’s "First Coast Forum: Human Trafficking" will air Thursday at 8 p.m. on 89.9 FM and WJCT Public Television.

You can follow Kevin Meerschaert @KMeerschaertJax.

Kevin Meerschaert has left WJCT for new pursuits. He was the producer of First Coast Connect until October of 2018.