Michelle, Jenny Williamson & Stephanie Midthun
“I am a mother of a Courage House girl. My daughter’s journey began with a total transformation from the loving and well-adjusted happy little girl who would kiss my eyelids to wake me up to a pre-teen that seethed defiance and sexuality. I thought it was that moodiness that parents discuss as their daughters reach the beginning stages of maturity. However, finding texts that were so explicit and chatting with boys/men about actions no twelve year old could imagine or experience raised red flags. The school became involved as grades slipped. Behaviors escalated requiring treatment programs and counseling. Hospitalizations for self-harm seemed to be the escape from a world my daughter couldn’t handle. And one night, after holding her secrets for over a year, she shared her truth – she had been trafficked for sex.
What was in my heart that night over rode my desire to seek revenge. As any parent I wanted to find who hurt her. But, the internet and chat rooms are faceless. Johns are nameless. I pretended I had all the courage in the world and knew how to handle it and put her to bed and said we would keep living our lives and deal with this. My bedroom door closed and my heart broke. My soul screamed. I sent my daughter to school the next morning with a kiss and a promise I would take care of things. But I found no one who understand what she had gone through. We sought medical attention, made a police report and increased the counseling. After her first attempt to commit suicide the night before giving a police forensic interview I decided her life was the most important thing. I continued to seek for the help my daughter needed. I soon came to realize very few understand, myself included. I was devastated at the lack of resources for my beautiful hurt, broken child.
Five suicide attempts, self-mutilation, and all failing grades ended her junior high experience. Starting over in high school seemed promising. She became captain of the freshman volleyball team only to lose it due to not being able to maintain grades from stress and strife, physical and mental. I felt so helpless. I couldn’t control her, help her or heal her. My child had been sexually trafficked! We were so hopeless.
Then by divine chance – my sister heard the Founder, Jenny Williamson speak at an event the attended – I found Courage House. When my daughter was accepted to Courage House I felt so proud, so hopeful, so overjoyed and scared beyond belief. Everything she experienced, that I knew I didn’t know the extent of, would come out. Would I be seen as an unfit parent? Would there be an agenda to protect my child from everything in her life including me? When would she come home? Would it be too soon? Would it take too long? Would she be cared for and cared about? Would she be able to grasp the healing? Would she be further victimized in any fashion? I was as scared as my daughter and just as hope-filled.
It is over an eleven hour drive from my home to what would be my daughter’s new home. My daughter was the fourth girl to cross the threshold of Courage House. Her experience is unique to her. It is her story but all Courage House girls share chapters. As we drove to the house it offered a peaceful rural setting with a secure gate to keep out the bad people out. The driveway is long and winding, surrounded by a white fence that houses the horses sauntering casually to greet you upon your arrival. Opening the car door you are welcomed by the dogs who also call Courage House home and the aroma of the flower garden and the trickling fountain. The door swings open and there are your “sisters”, your “aunties”, your “Jenny”, your “staff”, your “FAMILY”! Courage House is a home – a beautiful, peaceful, treasured “home”! The kind you dream of growing up in. And that is what happens. These girls grow!
I was told “thank you for trusting us with your daughter”.
I remember how my daughter spoke of riding her horse. She spoke of cleaning her room. She spoke of earning money with crafts and baked goods they sold. She went to prom! She received straight A’s. She spoke of her growing devotion to God. My daughter and I learned the meaning of blessings, support, growth, hard emotional work, and that this journey is not a straight quick path. I was there for the journey with her. We would Skype for family sessions which allowed me to “see” she was ok. I was able to love her and be involved while at the same time pursue my own healing.
When we arrived at Courage House I left a stubborn, hurting, wounded child but one year later I got my daughter back. She exhibits NO self-harm. She shows the ability to feel love and know what it is. She understands what valuing herself means and how to practice that. She wants to succeed. She wants to make her family proud. She belongs to Jenny, she belongs to me, and because of your support she belongs to you – God gave her to us!
Every now and then I get scared of what I call risky teenager behaviors because of what happened to my daughter. But, Courage House didn’t disappear after treatment was over. They check on us. They send cards – not just to my daughter but to me also. There are phone messages. There is guidance. There is friendship. There is love. There are prayers. There is hope. There may be red flags from the child but no one at Courage House ever waves a white flag!
This is a long version of what it means to be a mother of a girl who has called Courage House home. I see my daughter now as a direct reflection of her experiences. But, the one that has shaped her the most is the family she was born into and the family she gained in her quest for concurring the evil she was too young to protect herself from.
The crisis is over. It slowly melted away as she galloped on her horse, sang her heart out in music therapy, purged her demons to people prepared for the aftermath, and saw her beauty and worth through the eyes of God. She has now graduated from high school, is a freshman in college and working two jobs. I am the very proud mother of a Courage House young lady! She is a change maker! She has a future! And she is loved by so many who know what love is. Thank God for Courage House – they saved my daughter’s life.” Michele – a mom of a girl who called Courage House home.