When a sex trafficked victim is rescued, he/she is in need of basic necessities such as food, clothes, hygiene items and safe shelter. Experience and research shows that victims who get their immediate needs met feel valued, cared for, and safe, and have a much higher success rate of getting out of the cycle of abuse and trauma, and away from their trafficker. A first responder or advocate may only have minutes with a victim, who has been traumatized and often in a crisis or unstable state. This makes it very difficult to find resources immediately. Most organizations have programs, but human trafficking victims are usually very traumatized so navigating systems or trying to mold into programs is not easy and takes building trust first.
Bridging the Gap-Oregon is currently building a comprehensive, secure mobile app platform featuring advanced technology for law enforcement and victim advocates to use while on duty. The app will include an integrated alert system, directory of organizations and members, resource guide, and private in-app messaging on a platform with features for a mass centralized communication system—connecting victim needs to community partners who can help.
Our plan is to create a mobile app for every region that has a multidisciplinary human trafficking task force collaborative model. By sharing this powerful tool, we hope to help bridge the gaps in systems and create successful outcomes for victims. Our goal is to develop the mobile apps funded by grants and other supporters who want to make a significant impact in the anti-trafficking movement.
Bridging the Gap-Oregon also provides trauma informed training for law enforcement, churches, and organizations to be better equipped to identify and help survivors. Together we can foster collaboration and create safer communities!
Bridging the Gap-Oregon History and FUTURE
HISTORY: BTGO is a long time-vision of Portland Police Bureau Officer Mike Gallagher. Over the years, Mike would spend countless hours tracking down resources for sexually exploited victims, and at the same time, had organizations offering to help, but no way to effectively and efficiently communicate with them. His idea was to fill the gap by communicating victim needs, in real time, to organizations that have the resources available to help.
In 2014, Mike and community leaders formed Bridging the Gap and developed a private intranet website. Through the website, information was distributed immediately to approved users, who were part of a governmental agency, 501(c)(3) organization, or church, via a push notification system which allowed direct communication with one another to meet the need. In May 2015, BTG leaders were awarded the Portland Police Bureau Commendation Medal for creating the BTG website, which has provided resources for hundreds of victims.
FUTURE: BTGO is currently building a comprehensive, secure mobile app that will feature advanced technology with an integrated alert system (notifying users of urgent needs 24/7), a directory of organizations and members, resource guide, and private in app messaging for officers and victim advocates while on duty in the field. In addition to providing critical immediate exit ramps for sexually exploited and trafficked victims, there are in-app forums for community partners to post resources, job opportunities, and other services for survivors. The app will be available for both IOS and Android devices. The app will be developed to be scalable in the future with features for a mass centralized communication system for city, state and national agencies.
Current 3 year plan is to create the initial mobile app then 9 apps (one every 3 months plus a 30 day beta testing time) for the cities with the highest number of human trafficking who have an established task force collaborative and follow multi-disciplinary and trauma informed standards of care. We'll also tie in rural and tribal communities in the same region as larger metropolitan cities. Future plans include utilizing the BTGO platform to provide apps for agencies who serve other vulnerable populations such as DHS for immediate placement and resources for foster care children, housing bureaus for homeless, domestic violence centers, etc.. Apps for these agencies could prevent countless vulnerable kids from falling through system gaps, often caused by lack of resources and a cohesive support system.
BTGO Leadership Team
BOARD MEMBER: Founder, Officer Mike Gallagher (Portland Police Bureau)
Mike has been a Portland Police Bureau police officer for the last 28 years with the last 10 years in the Human Trafficking Department. Mike has been a pivotal member of the Sex Trafficking Unit and has seen the devastation caused when an individual is forced into a life of sexual exploitation. Mike works to establish relationships with victim-advocate groups, the district attorney’s office, community and church members, and charitable organizations to systemically confront sex trafficking.
Mike is passionate about seeing victims get the help they need to move from victim-to survivor-to thriver. He also works diligently to address the demand side, because eliminating the demand would eradicate sex trafficking. Mike coordinates the SBAD (Sex Buyers Accountability and Diversion) school to educate sex buyers on the damage and destruction their dollar is doing to women, children, their marriage, job, and community.
BOARD MEMBER: President, Darlene Domenigoni
Darlene has been mentoring women for over 30 years and working in anti-trafficking efforts since 2011, coordinating donated resources from churches and community partners for victims. In 2013, she developed a mentoring program for survivors and was the Director for 4 years. Darlene has been a part of Bridging the Gap since it was formed in January 2014.
Darlene formed and serves as the Director of the Mentor Support Collaborative, LLC. The MSC is a team of trauma informed leaders dedicated to developing healthy leaders, training and equipping the faith community. Darlene has been building trusted relationships with the anti-trafficking community for the last 8 years and believes it’s critical to collaborate in our efforts.
Aside from anti-trafficking work, Darlene has over 25 years of administrative experience, has been a real estate broker, and spent 8 years working in the accounting reconciling and auditing corporate accounts.
BOARD MEMBER, Secretary and acting Treasurer: Michele Lathrop
Michele joined International Teams in 2011 after learning about the issue of child trafficking in the United States. She has served as the Anti-Trafficking Ministry Coordinator for their Portland team for 5 years. Michele’s focus has been prevention through community awareness, education and working with youth to empower them with the knowledge and personal resources so they are better equipped and less vulnerable to the manipulations used by traffickers.
Michele has worked alongside many Portland agencies to address core issues of human trafficking related to prevention at the community level. She has co-authored the “Girl Empowerment” prevention curriculum in partnership with World Venture. Aside from her work in anti-trafficking efforts, Michele has experience as a bookkeeper for local nonprofits.
Board Member, Dana Clark
Dana has led anti-trafficking efforts since 2012. She is the Chair of East Portland End Sex Trafficking Committee, coordinating the anti-trafficking efforts of 4 local Rotary clubs.
Dana coordinates training for the hotel industry, which includes the committee’s efforts of distributing 10,000 bars of soap labeled with the HT National Hotline number for victims to call for help. Dana is also the marketing coordinator for awareness ads on buses, shelters, local newspapers, and at the PDX airport.
Dana has been a community leader for decades and is a retired broadcaster.
BOARD ADVISER: Pastor Marc Estes (Mannahouse Church)
Pastor Marc is a nationally and internationally known creative communicator and author who has reached thousands with his dynamic leadership skills and unique perspectives on the Bible. He is well respected in Portland/Vancouver and has worked relentlessly to build bridges with other churches, public schools, law enforcement, anti-sex trafficking groups, foster care agencies and other groups to transform our community and break down the walls that have divided it. He is also the President of Portland Bible College that focuses on training leaders around the globe. Marc is one of the founding members of Bridging the Gap.
Board Member, Andrea Benson
Andrea has her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and a Minor in Global Studies. Andrea currently works as a Client Service Manager for a Financial Company. Andrea’s deep passion is for spreading awareness of sex trafficking with the hope that no one will ever have to endure what she has as a sex trafficked survivor.
Some of Andrea’s anti-trafficking efforts include being a part of the U.S.Department of Homeland Security's Blue Campaign and the Novo Foundation’s Life Story Project.. She’s been featured in Educational Campaigns, Public Service Announcements, and several local media broadcasts. Andrea has also been a keynote speaker for many anti-trafficking organizations, churches, events, and training with the Portland Police Bureau Sex Trafficking Unit.
Having a survivor-leader on an anti-trafficking organization’s Board is vital and valuable to our BTGO’s efforts.
Board Member: Christine LeVay
Christine is the Vice President of Sales for the WA, OR & HI region for UnitedHealthcare Medicare & Retirement. Christine has a passion for helping the vulnerable, especially those who have been abused and exploited. Christine has over 15 years of experience in marketing, communications, and sales.
BOARD ADVISER: Technology Consultant: Craig Wishart (Custom Built Apps)
Craig has been a part of Bridging the Gap since its inception. His incredible IT knowledge, experience and creativity has been invaluable to making Bridging the Gap a reality. Craig is one of the founding members of Bridging the Gap.