BABE #241: ERIN PRUETT - Survivor Advocate Program Coordinator, Rethreaded
Erin is the survivor advocate program coordinator and mental health professional at Rethreaded — a Jacksonville, FL-based nonprofit using conscious business endeavors to support and employ survivors of human trafficking. Rethreaded’s mission is to renew hope, reignite dreams and release potential for survivors, and Erin’s role is vital to that mission. We are thankful for Erin and the many advocates like her who are putting in the hard work and fighting to create real change in the lives of so many who need it the most.
Be sure to read through to the bottom of this interview for information regarding a BWH x Rethreaded event happening THIS Thursday, 1/28!
Hometown: Jacksonville, Florida
Current city: Jacksonville, Florida
Alma mater: University of North Florida; Liberty University
Degree: B.S. Psychology; M.A. Mental Health Counseling
Very first job: Babysitting
Hustle: Survivor Advocate Program Coordinator, Rethreaded; Group Facilitator, Hope at Hand
Babe you admire and why?
My mom is the first person who comes to my mind when I think of someone I admire greatly. She is the type of person who loves well, offers kindness to everyone she meets and is always willing to help those who are in need. She lives in a foreign country working as a nurse and many know her by those things, but I am lucky enough to know her as mom. I know her as someone who is courageous, simplistic, and models character and depth. What she offers the world when no one is watching is truly remarkable and has taught me much. Many of the values I live by today were first modeled to me by her.
How do you spend your free time?
On any given day I’m likely to be spending my free time at a local coffee shop or in the gym, and if I can manage to get more than a few hours off I will likely be at the beach. I think it’s so important to know what your heart needs on any given day and to give yourself permission to shift from day to day based on what you need. Some days what I need is nature; some days I need surfing; other days what I need is a run or a group workout class.
Go-to coffee order and/or adult beverage?
Every single day begins with a black cup of pour over coffee. By 3:00 p.m. I most likely have had at least one cappuccino, which is my go-to beverage. On a Wednesday you’re likely to find me at [a coffee shop] consuming the one-off of the week. I am of the mindset that coffee = therapy and there is no such things as too much coffee in ones’ life.
What would you eat for your very last meal?
Tacos, tacos and more tacos.
What’s something you want to learn or master?
I have always loved language. Growing up around people who spoke multiple languages inspired me to one day be one of those people. I have always wanted to master Spanish and learn Arabic, so that’s something I’m striving for.
Tell us about your hustle.
Rethreaded is a conscious gift company that uses business to benefit our community and our world. This is done through long-term employment coupled with life and career development for survivors of human trafficking. As the survivor advocate program coordinator and mental health professional at Rethreaded, my role is to oversee the needs of our survivor community and ensure all survivors have access to the services needed in order to move forward. My role is to create sustainable programming while also addressing the immediate and ongoing needs of each individual. The main components of my job include the facilitation of therapeutic groups, crisis and mental health counseling, advocacy, partnership development and staff training.
What does your typical workday look like?
My typical workday looks like having a plan A and knowing that by the end of the day I will be on plan C (or even plan D). It looks like knowing there may be a crisis that occurs, and also that there will likely be interruptions of the best kind. My typical workday is filled with counseling sessions, groups, trainings, care management, advocacy work or partnership meetings, but the one consistent hat I always work to keep on is the one that allows me to be available to those in need. My typical days are certainly not a standard Monday through Friday, 8:00 to 5:00, and they often include a combination of settings. It’s common by the end of a week for me to have visited an individual in jail, in a hospital or at a rehab center and to have received multiple calls from survivors in the community asking for assistance.
What led you to Rethreaded? How does your role compare to other roles you’ve held?
After graduating with my master’s degree, several people mentioned Rethreaded and encouraged me to apply. Although on paper it looked like an amazing fit, there was something within me that felt it wasn’t the right timing. I couldn’t help but wonder if I was dismissing or even sabotaging an amazing opportunity. But then, several months later, my life took a different turn and I found myself serving in a refugee camp in Lesvos, Greece. I then understood why I had not applied at Rethreaded. A year and a half later, after returning home, the timing was finally right. I walked in for a meeting at Rethreaded, and the CEO, Kristin, asked what I was up to. I answered, “interesting that you ask because I just turned in my two weeks’ notice last week at my current job.” A week later, I was hired on at Rethreaded into a role that was a combination of many roles I had held in the past. My role differs from previous roles in that I am wearing many different hats and have a higher level of responsibility, but is similar in the sense of offering support to people in need.
How have your past professional and academic experiences prepared you for the work you do today?
No amount of academic experience or even professional experience could have prepared me adequately for some of the experiences I have seen, heard, felt and known. How does one really prepare to hear the cries of a baby who is soaking wet having just arrived from a war-torn country days after birth? How does one prepare to see a child sitting alone, completely shell-shocked from the horrors of war, which can be seen in his eyes? How does one really prepare to feel the scars a young woman feels from the way she was branded as a child? These are things no academic or professional experience could have prepared me for. What all the academic and professional experience did offer was hope, a roadmap and a toolkit. Each academic and professional experience revealed to me that I am not alone in the work, helped me build a strong foundation and provided me with a larger toolkit. Working in crisis and with complex trauma, transporting youth, facilitating groups, navigating justice systems, understanding wrap around services, working in recovery based programming and spending time at safe houses for survivors all were experiences which shaped me and led me to the role I am currently in today.
How do you practice staying composed in those emotionally charged situations?
Staying composed in emotionally charged professional situations is about listening more than I speak and remembering my “win” is not to make a point, but rather to make a difference. When I see value in every person in the room, I’m able to speak to and even perhaps critique the situation or tackle a person, without attacking an individual. It’s important to me that no matter how emotionally charged a situation becomes, each individual feels seen, heard, valued and loved. Although I know I’m not in control of another’s thoughts or feelings, I do believe I can bring an energy and presence into a space, which has the ability to shift the atmosphere. I also believe it’s important to pause more often than not and to ask ourselves first our purpose in stating what we are about to state. If we can first look inward and ask ourselves our motivations and really understand the lens we’re coming from, I think it gives room to also understand the lens of the other. Above all else, I want to know I can lay my head on my pillow at night being at peace with myself. This question of, will I be able to do that, is a filter I use to determine my words and my actions. Sometimes I miss the mark and this is where reflection, learning and grace enters in. These are things I learned mostly through those who have modeled these traits well. I have been surrounded by amazing individuals who yes, taught these things, but way more importantly they modeled them day to day. I truly could not be more grateful to those individuals.
Which key factors contribute to sex trafficking? How does Rethreaded work to break this cycle?
When I think about sex trafficking, I think about vulnerability and demand. Some common vulnerabilities contributing to sex trafficking can include poverty, trauma, childhood sexual abuse, grief and loss, a lack of resources within the community, instability within the home environment, substance abuse, domestic violence, isolation, homelessness and a lack of social support. Rethreaded aims to break the cycles by providing long-term employment as well as supportive services. Rethreaded’s mission is to renew hope, reignite dreams and release potential for survivors of human trafficking locally and globally through business. This is possible because of a community of individuals, partnerships and businesses who come alongside Rethreaded believing what they do matters and believing change is possible.
How has being a woman affected your professional experience?
Being a woman has affected my experience, and therefore has affected my professional experience. Throughout our lives we are often given messages of what it means to be a girl or what it means to be a woman. Often those carry with us throughout our lives and follow us into the professional part of our lives as well. The messages we have heard can impact our confidence, communication, motivation and even the ways in which we engage with peers and leadership. I think personally I’ve experienced how being a woman has, at times, led my opinion to be dismissed or even minimized. In order to create more equal and uplifting spaces for women in this industry and all industries, I believe that we must first invite everyone to the table and begin to have authentic conversation. When we’re able to share our own experiences and hear the experience of another, I believe we will begin to see each other and move towards a more inclusive approach which honors the voice of all.
Who are some women in your field you look to for inspiration?
I am blessed and beyond grateful to have so many women in the field who I look to for inspiration. These women have been trailblazers and also cheerleaders. They have walked their own difficult journeys and have modeled what it is to do this work in our world. Some of the women I look to for inspiration are those who perhaps will never be known by many, but are in the trenches daily pouring out love and spending time with people who may never be able to repay them. In my field, specifically, I’m inspired by Ate Becky in the Philippines with Wipe Every Tear, Kenia Cass who lives in Central America, and Christa Hicks, who has been both a friend and mentor. I am consistently fought for and supported by Kristin Keen and when I am looking for guidance, support or encouragement I often find myself entering through the doors of the Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center as I know I will always leave feeling both supported and challenged. I feel inspired and supported by many but my greatest inspiration comes from the women I work with. They are truly my greatest teachers. I learn from them daily and on many days they are my why.
Career and/or life advice for other babes?
Know that you matter and that what you do makes a difference! My advice to myself and also to others is to take the journey. Take the journey into the deepest parts of yourself and into your own stories and find what makes you come alive. In a world that so often emphasizes doing, I invite you to be one who focuses and centers life around being. Then, invite others into that same journey and find the tribe that sticks with you in that space. Never, never, never give up. When you are overwhelmed by the world, the need, or the pain, simply do for one what you wish you could do for everyone. To that one it may be everything—and perhaps you are even that one.
In partnership with:
Rethreaded provides a second chance at life through employment for survivors of human trafficking in Jacksonville, Florida. Women have employment opportunities in different facets of the company including production, inventory, sales, marketing and finance/admin. Rethreaded also operates as a distribution company that sells products from like-minded businesses who also employ women who have found freedom from the sex trade.
Jacksonville community: get a peek behind the Rethreaded curtain at our Sip + Shop with Rethreaded event THIS THURSDAY, 1/28 from 6:30-9PM. Your $10 donation covers wine, beer, light bites, professional insight, networking opportunities, and an effective and rewarding shopping experience. Grab your ticket here — spaces are limited!