I began my day today having a conversation with one of “our girls” about going back to prostitution, listing the advantages and disadvantages on a piece of paper. She was out of diapers and food for her baby. Her car had broken down. Her family was calling her asking for money and she didn’t get paid for another 5 days. In her mind, prostitution offered a quick way to get money “just this one time” until I reminded her about the STD’s she would catch, the fact that pimps/traffickers don’t let girls operate alone and would force her – violently – to continue “working” and that the price she would pay with her mind, body, spirit and emotions was not worth it. Thankfully she agreed.
This situation and conversation is not an uncommon one for us at Courage Worldwide. While my knee jerk reaction coupled with my logical, middle class brain wants to scream “are you crazy – you will die out there!”, I instead listen – really listen without judgement. As I listen, I hear the very real stress she faces as a single mom – not even an adult herself – whose family does not provide any support financially or emotionally and who they themselves believe prostitution is a viable way to earn money. I listen to her heart as she describes the struggle to be and do something she has never had a role model for until ‘courage’. It is easy for her list her failures, poor choices and her seemingly constant ability to disappoint those who love her. While she has a difficult time remembering that she is a good mom, giving her child what was never given to her; how she is not only making healthy choices that will change her life but the life of her young son. It is my job to remind her of that and so much more. Her face lights up as I also tell her that her ‘courage’ family will not abandon her. Tears flow as I remind her her that she was created on purpose for a purpose and that we will continue to believe in her until she believes in herself. She hugs me and call me mom. I have been saying these same words to her since she was 14 years old; reminding her over and over again of her value and worth. Why does it take so long? Why doesn’t healing come faster after you provide someone a safe home, loving family, food to eat, all their basic necessities as well as therapy?
The answer is easy … their brains.
Neglect, abuse and trauma that has gone on for years and years, arrest the development of the brain and literally stunts the emotional growth and cognitive learning of the victim. Some of our girl’s victimization started in the womb when their mothers were using/abusing drugs and alcohol while pregnant. Not being wanted. Being neglected and abused prohibits healthy attachments and bonding in the future. It stands to reason that if the abuse and trauma was experienced for multiple, consecutive days, months and years, then it will take a long-term approach and mind-set to see healthy behaviors, choices and decrease in mental health symptoms.
This is what we discovered and planned for in the Courage House model. Below is a quote from one of our mental health professionals and program consultant.
“We have discovered the adolescents who have been trafficked for sex show the most significant response to treatment at 18-24 months for both mental health symptoms and complex developmental attachment wounds. These preliminary results point to long-term care for adolescents of commercial sexual exploitation as the best practice for treatment. Based upon research, it is my professional opinion that residential care be designed as a two-three year program for adolescent girls and young women rescued from commercial exploitation.
"Courage Worldwide has established a long-term therapeutic residential care home model for sexually exploited adolescents and young adults that meets and even exceeds our standards for best practices in the industry. Their outcomes are extraordinary with this population and are now documented as a part of a five-year longitudinal study measuring the effects of the Courage House program.”
— Vanessa Snyder, Ph.D.
Dean of Clinical Affairs
VP Institute of Trauma & Recovery
Richmont Graduate University
In our work with these vulnerable children, young women and their children, we have committed to walk through this journey of healing with them. It is difficult, messy, expensive and a long-term endeavor. Like drug addiction, there are lots of relapses and setbacks; disappointment and tears. However, we will continue building them homes and calling them family as long as this evil entraps these young, vulnerable ones. We are asking you to join us in the journey by pledging your financial support during our year-end $100,000.00 in 100 day Campaign. By December 1, of this year we must commit to another 12 month lease for the home and safe house in the US. Your giving and this financial campaign will allow us to guarantee they have safe home and family. Thank you for your prayerful consideration.