ROANOKE, Va. – A Roanoke survivor of sexual assault is using her traumatizing experience to connect with and serve other victims of sexual assault and human trafficking through her non-profit, The Lampstand.
Kathleen Arnold, 30, is the director and CAO of the nonprofit organization.
“The Lampstand is a safe home for kids, ages 12-17, who had sex exploitation,” Arnold said. “We have therapy and case management services. A lot of different services and structured care specialists that help them every day.”
With human trafficking impacting the world gravely, including here in the commonwealth, Arnold and her team work hard to raise awareness and educate the community on the severity of the issue.
“A lot of time, what happens is traffickers meet someone and identify a need, or they create a need, and they fill that need for that victim and then they isolate them until they are their only source of need fulfillment,” Arnold said. “And then, simply they exploit their dependency on them.”
Arnold said they work with victims they receive through referrals.
“These referrals come from different state human trafficking coordinators like Homeland Security, law enforcement, or entities like that. We serve 12–17-year-olds because that is the average age, we see that boys and girls are trafficked in America. This program is definitely needed.”
They all have wrap-around services for males and older victims connecting them with case managers, therapy, and social support.
The Lampstand has also expanded its program.
“We realized it takes about 60 days to get a girl stabilized, so if we are just a 90-day program, then it wouldn’t be enough to really work through that trauma,” Arnold said. “We need six to 12 months so we can be more than just shelters that are a safe place but be able to tap into their vulnerabilities and lessen the likelihood of being exploited again.”
Arnold said the Lampstand has been an idea for nine years and she is beyond thankful that it is now a reality. She feels being a part of such a needed resource in the community such as the Lampstand was always her destiny. She jokingly says her story starts at conception.
“In 1991ish, there was a thief raiding different houses in my parents’ neighborhood and the police could not catch the people,” she said. “The neighborhood association was up in arms about it so the men decided that they would be vigilantes to crack down on this situation. So, they would watch the alleyways at night and try to catch the thieves themselves. My dad’s shift was at 4:00 a.m. and because he is a night owl, my mom was trying to help him get to bed earlier.”
Nine months later, Arnold was born and would soon be nicknamed by the neighborhood association as the ‘Night-Watch Baby.’
“My mom literally just recently told me that story,” Arnold laughed. “She was like, ‘If you ever doubted that you were called to watch the night, it was spoken over you since you were a little kid.’ I always wanted to help others. I just had this feeling that if there was ever a pandemic or catastrophe or anything, that I needed to be doing something important.”
Arnold originally thought she was destined to be a nurse, so she started in nursing at JMU.
What Arnold tried to suppress was the unfortunate trauma she experienced over the years at that point in her life.
“The Lord got ahold of my heart during that time, even though I walked away from him because I had been disappointed by a lot of people who loved Jesus in my life,” she said. “I thought I was done. I don’t remember how I showed up at the Christian meeting and I continued to watch them for a couple of months seeing the real love there and it was mesmerizing for me. One event I watched that they showed was a woman getting an evil spirit exercised out of her and it unlocked something inside me. At that point, I hadn’t showed any emotions to anyone, but a tear fell, and the leader came over and put her hand on my knee. I just cried and everyone came around me and spoke His Goodness over me. He got me at that point.”
Arnold said it was then that she believes God called her to change her major.
“I went from nursing to Global Justice Studies,” Arnold said. “I changed my major in faith and a couple of months later, I learned about sex trafficking. I started saying this was what I was going to do. This is what I was called to do. A month after that, I went to a conference and this man started prophesying over my feet and he said, ‘You are going to go to India and work with sex trafficking victims,’ and he was right.”
Unfortunately for Arnold, sexual assault had invaded her life on multiple occasions.
“I had childhood sexual abuse that I didn’t even remember at that point in my life,” Arnold said. “I met with a woman who did inner-healing and we learned I didn’t have memories before the age of 8. She asked if I wanted to know why. It wasn’t until I was 19 that I remembered the sexual abuse that I had as a child. I had delayed recall. Traumatic Amnesia. I had a flesh memory like If someone touched my neck, I would come up fighting or go down cowering. I had horrific nightmares as a child, but I didn’t know what exactly went on.”
That pain is still something to this day that Arnold is working through.
“My name means pure one,” she said. “And I feel like the devil attacks identity and certain things and so many times in my life, that child sex abuse set me to be sexually abused many many times in my life and even raped when I was an adult. I questioned the Lord. I went through a period when I would self-harm and drink and binge and purge. It was a terrible cycle I was in, in ‘working the hell out.’ It doesn’t look or sound pretty. It was an ugly time. It was a dark time.”
Even more shocking, Arnold said these dark encounters were with people who claimed to love Christ and who she trusted.
“I think when we hear the Gospel from a man’s perspective and God is a man the way we see him in the Bible, that really made me struggle in way,” Arnold said. “I got to a point where I was lowkey seething about men. I was upset. I got to the peak of my frustration with men and wrestling with God. Either God was good, or God was not good because essentially if all men are evil, then that counts out God too.”
But, despite going through deep disappointment in her faith, she learned that God is good through it all.
“The Lord was like you got to choose and my mentor said I had to make this decision,” Arnold said. “My first frustration was the devastation, I was like, ‘God how could you be good seeing all of this around me?’ Then me not believing that he could make it ok, and it would be alright. I thought, ‘Why me? Why would you choose me to go through all of this?’ In that moment I truly questioned, but then I chose in faith God and that He is good. I was about 24 when that moment happened. In that moment, I could see where places where I had been molested or sexually assaulted or raped, things that were so hard and terrible it was like this healing bomb had been put over them and these places were no longer as deep or as bad,” Arnold said. “It was something only the Lord could do in a moment.”
She said all of her pain and suffering is now her testimony.
“The more and more the devil attacks something, the more and more he shows that that is good and is for something good,” Arnold said. “And so, for someone who feels like they’ve been incredibly attacked in this area, the Lord is using it for good.”
Arnold found herself heavily involved with the Lampstand in the beginning stages.
“I was blessed to work on this project about seven years before it opened and it gave me the opportunity to get my own healing. I got my master’s in social work but I needed to get my healing process because doing this work is very intense. I never want what I am doing with these girls to have anything to do with me or my history. I just want to be able to be there and present and show the goodness that God has put in me. It is not about my story or what I have been through. That side of me motivates me for sure but it is not the ‘why’ behind why I sit with these victims. I sit with them because the Goodness of God. There are elements to what I went through that allows me to empathize on a deeper level and understand on a deeper level. I have tasted some of that darkness. It is hard for some people who have never tasted that darkness and gotten to the end of themselves and have seen the worst of what humanity can be. It is different and it does help me to be able to empathize.”
On March 15, 2022, the organization with a great and well-qualified staff held a grand opening at its new location.
“The name lampstand really comes out of us bringing light into a dark place,” she said. “It comes out of Matthew 5:15. It says, ‘No one lights a lamp and puts it in a bushel, instead puts it on a lampstand and it provides light for the whole house.’ God provides light for us, and we get to be that stand where God really shows himself and shines in the lives, we have the privilege of being in. God chooses the weak ones to do his work and to glorify him because it is privilege and blessing.”
She credits the founder of Straight Street with sparking the idea of the organization.
“The Lampstand was the answer to the question we were asked,” she said. “Law enforcement came to our founder, Keith, and asked if we had somewhere to put these victims of human trafficking they were rescuing. The team started praying about this and through random people, this was a confirmation. The Lord confirmed this was what Strait Street was supposed to start.”
Arnold said this journey has been beyond rewarding for her.
“I really do feel like it is my baby,” she joked. “It is humbling because it is beyond one person. God brought together people that are supposed to be here. “I think I am a lot more whole and a lot more healed than I certainly was before. I think I have a lot more compassion for people and wherever I meet them at because of where I have walked before.”
Arnold is now happily married after being able to trust men again. Despite suffering from three miscarriages, she and her husband are still passionate about having children one day.
Her mission is to continue to inspire others going through difficult circumstances, and she encourages people to be strong in their faith in God.
“If I had any advice to anyone out there who may have gone through what I went through, I think it would be to keep fighting,” Arnold said. “I think it would be to trust the Lord and lean on him and keep fighting and if you haven’t gone through this, to be a safe place for others walking through things like this. Do not be afraid of what your shield or darkness look like because God’s light and brightness is enough.”
The Lampstand is gearing up for its annual fundraiser, A Night of Hope, where they will celebrate the Lampstand safe home dedicated to serving children in Virginia who have survived sex trafficking. It will take place Saturday, October 15, 2022, from 5:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at First Roanoke.
Register Here: https://thelampstandva.org/night-of-hope/
Also, if you know someone who has a story or if you would like to share your story, contact me directly:
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