EP. 26: Jillian Penahale

Jillian Penhale | Created Women, Director

Jillian has been serving as the Executive Director of Created since May of 2015. Before this transition she served on the Created Staff as the Residential Coordinator for 8 months, and as a volunteer on the Outreach Team for the last 4 years.

Since receiving her Bachelors Degree for the University of South Florida in Sociology, Jillian went on the work for The Salvation Army for 5 years before sensing a calling to join the Created team.

During that time she also pursued and received her Masters in Nonprofit Management from the University of Central Florida.

She is passionate about seeing women empowered to stop the cycle of abuse in their families.

Jillian and I chat about the work she does with the non-profit Created to come alongside women in the sex industry.

4:06 Jillian shares what Created does on a day to day basis to build relationships with women coming out of the sex industry

Created’s goal is to provide a place of belonging and refuge to every woman they meet that is coming from the sex industry.

5 of the 9 staff at Created Women are survivor leaders.

7:37 Jillian shares some statistics about the sex industry, particularly in Tampa, Florida where they are located

  • Tampa is 3rd in the U.S. for the number of men, women, and children who are brought into the country for sex trafficking
  • Tampa has more strip clubs per capita than any other city in the U.S.
  • Tampa is 3rd in the U.S. for illicit massage parlors

10:49 “Think about, what are the things that happened in their lives that led them here, because no child is ever like that is what I want to do when I grow up. That’s how I want to make my way through college is to dance and strip…It is not a normal thing. It has to come from some brokenness that is happening, whether to them or around them.”

11:50 Jillian walks us through her time as a street outreach volunteer, residential program coordinator, and now executive director at Created.

17:58 “So many times we go into ministry like, ‘Oh, this is going to be so great’….but real ministry is hard. People are broken and they don’t want your help and they don’t want your good words or whatever you think you can give. At the end of the day, that is the biggest thing I have had to learn, all I can offer is Jesus and the kindness and peace that He brings.”

20:20 Jillian shares obstacles and success stories

27:07 “We have 5 members of our staff team are graduates of our program.  To watch them every day reinvest their lives into the women we’re serving and use their stories to cultivate change that nobody else could is amazing.”

“It’s all the small moments that really matter. The graduating from drug treatment, starting trauma therapy; it is all the small steps, because  even when a relapse happens or something happens and a woman decides to leave our program we can always go back and think, ‘She made it this many months clean this time and she made through these classes and life skills that she never had before.’ The likelihood of her coming back from that relapse is so much higher than it was before.”

Brothel is just a place used for prostitution. They can look different in every city, but in Tampa is massage parlors and lingerie shops.

  • 20 of the 22 massage parlors Created visits is comprised of Korean women.  God has provided a team of Korean women to do the outreach, which is a huge praise.

“God showing us, ‘No, I will make a way. I will bring people to you.’ So even when it feels isolating and [we wonder] who’s going to come to help, where is the church, God continuously brings people who are there and want to do [the work].”

33:30 Jillian talks about women who are brought into Tampa for the sex industry

35:50 Jillian discusses how Created develops relationships with clubs and brothels, which allow their outreach teams to minister in their places of business

“We go in with the intention to treat everyone with kindness.”

“The sad reality, for clubs, is for every woman that will leave they have like 3 or 4 applying. They’re not worried about us [Created] taking them. That is the reality of the sex industry and sexual exploitation as a whole, every woman is viewed as very replaceable. Whether it’s a trafficker, a pimp, a club manager, anything, the women are very replaceable. That is a hard reality for anybody to think about, but for the women who come into Created that is a hard reality for them to learn while they are here.”

40:20 “We’re going to go in like we belong there, like this is totally normal….You have to pump yourself up and go in like it is going to be no problem and I belong here, because the reality is Jesus is already there.  He is already working. He will make the way in that place.”

40:50 Jillian shares the needs of Created, including their Amazon wish list, ways to volunteer, meal opportunities, purchase bath scrubs from Etsy, etc.

“Men volunteers are welcome at Created too.  The reality is, we want to show them healthy men who are not trying to use them.”

46:05 Jillian provides a few tips on how a ministry like Created can be launched in your community

  • Drive your city and find out where the women are (most cities have a track for prostitution, clubs, brothels)
  • Go and pray in those places
  • Start meeting the women
  • Research the resources that already exist and compile a list

“Start small…Who are the women? How can I meet them? What are their needs?”

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