Interview with Tina Frundt, Founder of Courtney's House

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Tina Frundt, Founder and Executive Director of Courtney’s House recently took time out of her busy schedule to talk with CJJ’s Senior Policy Associate, Naomi Smoot, about her work and her recent appointment to the United States Advisory Council on Human Trafficking.

Smoot: Can you tell us a little bit about Courtney’s House and the services you provide?

Frundt: Courtney’s House is about survivors helping survivors. We work with males and females, ages 11 to 21, in D.C., Maryland and Virginia.  We offer a bi-weekly support group on Saturdays to help our survivors transition their mindset. We also have mentoring, case management, and a street outreach program that operates in high trafficking areas between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. We have a hotline for survivors by survivors of human trafficking, domestic violence, and assault. We also have a full cooked meal and food items that clients can take home with them. A lot of people don’t realize that when you’re in foster care or a similar placement, food may be limited or restricted to certain hours. We want to make sure our clients have what they need.

Since we opened in 2008, we’ve helped more than 500 people escape from domestic sex trafficking. We’ve had a lot of our survivors stick with the program for a long time. They also refer other people to Courtney’s House. About 44 percent of our referrals come from friends. We get about three to six new referrals a week, and have roughly 22 people on our waiting list. Part of the reason why so many people want to be here is that we try to foster a sense of family and belonging.

Smoot: I hear you were also recently appointed to several new commissions?

Frundt: I was appointed to Maryland Governor Larry Hogan’s Safe Harbor Task Force. [Safe harbor laws have been enacted in more than 30 states to ensure that children who were trafficked are not charged with a crime but are instead provided with services to help address their needs.] One of the things I’ve suggested is that the law should cover survivors up to age 21. This is in line with the foster care system, which considers a person a youth until 21.

Smoot: And you were appointed by President Obama to work on human trafficking issues as well?

Frundt: Yes. In December, I was appointed to the new U.S. Advisory Council on Human Trafficking [a panel that was created following the recent enactment of the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act]. I am the only domestic survivor on the panel who is a direct service provider. I think that’s landmark and amazing. So often people have misconceptions about who survivors are. They think it’s only sex trafficking; that it only affects women, and that it doesn’t happen here, to U.S. citizens. That’s not true. There are all types of survivors. There are farm workers and other laborers. There are boys and girls and transgender youth. We need more effective training because we can’t identify survivors if we have these misconceptions and don’t know what we’re looking for. That’s where survivors come in. Survivors should be doing more of our training.

Survivors play an important role. When I was in foster care and being trafficked, I never thought I’d live past 30. I never had a plan for living past 30. After everything I’ve been through, I never thought I’d be here. Never in my life did I think it was possible for me to have a positive impact on people’s lives. I’m proud of my past. I’m proud of all that’s happened to bring me to who I am today and to help me better serve others and to help them overcome their own battles.

To learn more about Courtney’s House visit