Editor’s note: This blogpost was written as a part of Ringling College of Art and Design’s Storytelling for Social Justice and Community Engagement course, fall semester 2022, led by instructor Sylvia Whitman. Students were paired with nonprofits to learn about their mission and impact, and the post that follows shares the story of More Too Life.
The project was completed as part of a collaboration with The Glasser/Schoenbaum Human Services Center. Many thanks to Charlene Altenhain and Sarah Glendening, especially, for their coordination of student writers to nonprofit organizations.
When describing More Too Life’s mission statement, Dawn Sakes, executive director, looked to its logo. “There’s a shackle in the Too, but one chain link is broken. This is to show there’s always another option; there’s a way to break free from the confines of human trafficking. We’re here to help people achieve this.”
Dawn Sakes, left, with Chloe Clark. Photo by Sarah Forest
More Too Life is a Sarasota-based nonprofit organization that specializes in providing services for human-trafficking prevention and victim care throughout South Florida and the Suncoast region. Dr. Brook Parker-Bello—a clinical counselor, author, minister, human-trafficking survivor advocate, and a human-trafficking survivor herself— founded More Too Life in 2004 to give a voice to survivors of human trafficking, an issue that exists everywhere and can impact anyone, yet so often gets overlooked.
In addition to supporting human-trafficking victims, More Too Life also seeks to address human trafficking at the root with prevention programs that educate at-risk youth on the importance of internet safety and integrity as they relate to human trafficking, misconduct, and healthy relationship boundaries.
More Too Life individualizes its variety of direct victim services to each survivor’s specific needs: safe housing and food, counseling with a team of trained mentors, legal support, or even horse therapy.
“They connected me to a community of not only mentors but fellow victims as well,” states Chloe Clark, a human-trafficking survivor and More Too Life community member. “Being surrounded by people who can relate to what I’m going through and have the same goals gave me a strong support system.”
The More too Life team. Photo by Sarah Forest.
One thing that sets More Too Life apart is its survivor-led approach to addressing human trafficking. A team of survivor-mentors, many of whom have also experienced sexual violence, supports the healing process of victims by cultivating personal trauma-informed care from people who truly understand the complexity of human trafficking and sexual violence. Through this, More Too Life helps turn “victims to survivors, survivors to thrivers, and thrivers into champions.”
When I met with the More Too Life community, one thing was clear: Everyone here is committed to reminding victims of sexual violence and human trafficking that they are more than their trauma. There is more to life than their past.
As Alyssa Whittemore, a More Too Life enrichment and sustainability specialist, puts it, “You're not limited to the experiences that you had; that's not the totality of who you are as a person. You can be anything you want to be.”
Alyssa Whittemore. Photo by Sarah Forest.