Trailblazer of Redemption: Ked Frank and Refuge for Women

February 04, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

'I don’t think about the beach, I don’t think about playing golf, I don’t think about slowing down… I love what I do,'

 

As Refuge for Women founder Ked Frank and his team prepare to launch a new brand, Survivor Made, we took some time to talk with our longtime friend. We’ve had the privilege of working with Refuge for Women since it launched in 2009 and are thrilled to see the unveiling of Survivor Made. The site launched today! 

Founded in Central Kentucky and now with multiple locations across the U.S., Refuge for Women is a non-profit, faith based organization providing specialized long-term care for women who have escaped human trafficking or sexual exploitation. Survivor Made is Refuge for Women’s social enterprise that creates jobs and income the program’s participants when they have barriers to employment. 

With Refuge’s launch of Survivor Made, It felt like a great time to learn more about Ked’s story and the remarkable work of Refuge. 

By Allison Antram

Getting into the work of rescuing women from the sex industry isn’t for the faint of heart, but heart initially is what Ked Frank was leaning on as he forged an entirely new business model in Central Kentucky. 

“Once your heart gets engaged in something, it’s hard to break away from it,” he said about the humble beginnings of Refuge For Women, which now spans nationwide. “It seemed like the issue just kept popping up everywhere. We felt like the Lord was making it really, really clear ––that he was doing something, and we were going to be in the middle of it.”

There is much about the beginnings of Refuge for Women that is only explainable through the lens of a God-plan. Ked and Michelle Frank were living in Ohio when they began to learn about the crisis of sex trafficking and sexual exploitation, and they knew they were being called to be a part of the solution. A move to Kentucky and Refuge’s 11 years and seven locations since, the success and magnitude of what they’ve created is deeply inspiring. Yet, it began with simple vision, deep conviction, and willingness to take a risk.

“I enjoy blazing trails and starting new things,” Ked explained. “You don’t know what you’re stepping into. You don’t know how this is all going to work out… the unknown is exciting. It’s an adventure, asking God, ‘How are you going to do this?’” 

Such a posture, which deters most, excited Ked. In the early days, this resilient attitude toward his work and the complexities of it propelled Refuge through its rocky start as they learned of the depth of needs from the victims they were helping, and how they could meet them.

“The needs that the women were bringing into the home were more extensive than I had realized; the PTSD, the addictions, the mental illness, the trauma they’ve been through, the lack of trust… it was harder than what I anticipated,” Ked admitted, laughing as he reflected and simply said, “It wasn’t easy!”

The early days - a farmhouse and $1,100

When the Franks began their rehabilitation and safe houses with an old country farmhouse and $1,100 to renovate it, there was no shortage of challenges — from the home itself to balancing a weighty ministry with their own family. Yet, Ked insisted that this phase of the process held something unique; “There’s a desperation on God and a childlike faith that’s just exciting and adventurous.”

This attitude has boded well for their ministry and their family, as the work of redemption has become a joyful pursuit, inseparable from other parts of their lives. 

“I wake up everyday and I’m passionate about it,” Ked explained with a tangible passion. “It doesn’t even feel like a job. It feels like a part of my life. It’s so ingrained in our family… It feels like a real privilege to get to do what we do each and every day.”

The privilege is visible in the fruit of their hearts and ministry. Ked recalled the initial seeds being planted, when he and Michelle were given a prophetic word about what they were about to embark on, and that “people from all over the world are going to be coming to be a part of this ministry you’re going to be doing.” Though at the time they had no idea what that would look like, it was years later, sitting with a woman trafficked from Europe who spoke no English, that those words reverberated in his mind. It had looked entirely different than he or Michelle had expected or could have planned, but infinitely better for it.

There is no "Plan B"

It comes as no surprise to hear then, despite the difficult nature of such a ministry and its difficult beginnings, that Ked has no “Plan B,” and has never wanted to give Refuge up; the clarity of their call has been too great, and his energy for it is unmatched. 

“I don’t think about the beach, I don’t think about playing golf, I don’t think about slowing down… I love what I do,” he laughed, shrugging off retirement dreams after explaining that he had no idea what else he would even do. “I feel called to do what we do, and I see a long path ahead of us for developing this.”

This long path has already been a stunning one, having acquired a national presence and now spanning seven different locations across the country. But just as their tenacity and vision grows, so does the crisis, while societal understanding remains limited.

Recently this topic surfaced in mainstream news, as Visa and Mastercard blocked the use of their credit cards on PornHub following an investigation that exposed the site’s hosting of videos involving rape, child abuse and other unlawful content. Even with this apparent win, Ked explained that this does sadly very little, as it simply redirects the demand elsewhere.

“We’re not going to end the problem,” he acknowledged that the core of these issues is one that could not be assuaged. “Sex and money drive our world,” he said, going on to explain the roots of the crisis and dispel common myths. He cited the two primary problems that perpetuate the cycle as childhood sexual abuse, and demand. 

“Every single woman we’ve served in 11 years, her world started collapsing when she started experiencing sexual trauma at a very early age and did not have support to be able to process the trauma she was going through,” Ked said. 

He talked through how this trauma and pain and need becomes cyclical, often trapping women in their own circumstances. “When people are desperate, they do what they have to do to survive,” and it’s a truth he’s witnessed — and helped many overcome — firsthand. 

Consequently, he also confronted the myth that sex work is empowering, that there’s a version of it that isn’t harmful, or that this world is something women genuinely choose. Given his experience in seeing the reasons women enter this industry, the addictions it fosters, and the ceaseless demand, he is too familiar with the realities of the industry’s vicious cycle. These realities strengthen his call to the work of Refuge, knowing as the problem only grows, so must the solution.

A creative solution

At the moment, a new and growing phase of that solution is the Survivor Made program, where women work and learn skills as they go through the Refuge program. The products available for purchase include quality leather goods, accessories, candles and gift sets. 

“We want to continue to expand the job opportunities that we have for the residents,” Ked explained their heart behind this development, noting a hope for majorly expanding this resource or getting into boutiques in 2021.

With unmatched heart and trailblazing skill, these efforts and Ked and Michelle’s ministry will surely only continue to educate their community, offer solutions and bring redemption to more and more women. What began with a call, open hearts, and a willingness to take a risk has transformed innumerable lives, with no signs of slowing down.


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