Jenny Williamson claims she works to help underage victims of human trafficking. She runs the non-profit Courage House, and she pays herself a salary of $115,000 for her charitable work.
Williamson’s work has received recognition from the FBI, and she has been honored as a “woman of worth” by L’Oréal Of Paris. Williamson claims to have been led by a religious calling to engage in her work.
Today Courage House is closed, and the four residents who were living there have been displaced.
The closure comes after multiple violations, and staff raising concerns over Williamson prioritizing funding over the privacy and safety of the victims she claimed to be helping.
As reported by The Sacramento Bee,
“Courage House was cited 16 times in the first six months of this year – more than any other previous year – for violations that included confidentiality breeches and infringement of residents’ personal rights.
Of those 16 citations, 10 were classified by the state as Type A, or serious enough to have an immediate impact on clients’ health, safety or personal rights…”
Staff described Williamson as a “temperamental leader“ who was lacking a background in child development. They complained that Williamson posted pictures with identifying features of the trafficked girls on social media.
One child was encouraged to give a radio interview, which led her teacher to recognize her voice.
Arlicia Lorentty, a former social worker at Courage House, describes the girls being displaced on a regular basis. The purpose of this displacement was to allow potential funders to tour, and even host lunches at the facility.
Williamson was known for making unethical barters with the trafficked girls. She would offer them prizes, such as trips to Six Flags. In return, the girls would agree to be bused an hour and a half away to a church with potential donors.
“As nonwhite girls in a predominately white church, they stuck out like sore thumbs—it was very obvious that they were the ‘courage girls’. They didn’t want to be labeled as ‘courage girls’ for the rest of their lives and didn’t want to be constantly seen as victims of trafficking,”
Staff made additional complaints which included being fired without notice. The sudden disappearance of a trusted staff member can be harmful to young survivors of trauma. They often suffer from attachment issues.
Lydia Leanos, who oversaw the equestrian riding program at Courage House explained,
“I had been there long enough to watch other staff people disappear. You go to a meeting there and you never come back.”
Courage house received $9,100 in funding from the federal government per girl housed at the facility. In 2015, $1.4 million dollars in net assets were reported. Yet, a former employee was told that there was only funding for two out of the six girls to see a psychiatrist each month.
Sex-trafficking "rescue" org paid CEO $115,000 per year but couldn't afford psychologist appointments for victims https://t.co/zzVPAgzblK
— Elizabeth Nolan Brown (@ENBrown) September 20, 2016
As reported by Reason,
“DeAnne Brining, a licensed therapist who had contracted with Courage House, described the situation as ‘abusive’ and said Williamson routinely “paraded the girls around” for marketing purposes. Another former employee told the Bee “everything was a photo op.”
— SWOP Los Angeles (@SwopLosAngeles) September 21, 2016
Perhaps more insulting then the misuse of funds are the words Williamson uttered:
“It is difficult to love someone that does not love themself.”
Read: it’s difficult to impose my middle class and religious values on people from diverse backgrounds.
“It is difficult to maintain a healthy staff for our kids.”
Read: it’s difficult to keep people on the payroll when I’m willing to fire anyone who does not subscribe to my perceived “mission from God.”
“It is difficult to constantly fundraise to meet the needs of these girls.”
Read: it’s difficult to constantly parade around and exploit children for financial gain.
It wasn’t until 10 weeks after Courage House shut down that Williamson decided to update her donors about the closure via a post on social media.
Despite having her facility shut down, and being accused of exploiting victims, Williamson is planning on opening more Courage Houses across the country, and in Tanzania.
Featured Image: Screenshot Via Twitter.