Those working on the front lines of trafficking are working hard to provide survivors with much needed resources to aid in recovery. In honor of Human Trafficking Awareness Month, we are elevating their voices to draw attention to the incredible work they do. The following post was written by Jessica Midkiff, Oree Freeman and Amber Davies at Saving Innocence. They work to give children on-the-ground help by utilizing strategic partnerships with law enforcement, social service providers and schools, while mobilizing communities to prevent abuse and increase neighborhood safety.
When a commercially sexually exploited child (CSEC) is able to escape the abuse and exploitation of her abuser, it is usually either terrifying or exhilarating. If the child believes they are in a relationship with the exploiter, and has been under the influence of a person who could be categorized as sadistic and unhealthy in the most unimaginable ways, the child may only fear the consequences. If, however, she is fighting for her right to be free from the environment she has been forced to survive in and leave the exploiter, she may be overwhelmed by the emotions surrounding the new opportunities available to him or her.
At Saving Innocence, our mission is to end the commercial sexual exploitation of children, and our daily work is dedicated to supporting children escape a life of exploitation. Similar to the domestic violence movement that encouraged advocates to stand alongside victims, we believe that children having specialized victim advocates is key to helping these children navigate their recovery from the trauma of trafficking.
Intervention — The First Week
When we encounter these children, our role is to support and build a relationship. We have advocates who are ready at any time of the day and night to offer support and emergency services to the children in need alongside law enforcement, child welfare, Probation, Mental Health and Public Health.
Our advocates offer various hygiene products: blankets, stuffed animals, clothing and snacks as well as some coloring and reading tools to help keep the child calm and centered. We offer physical and emotional support as needed, answering questions in an often confusing situation, and allow the child to process emotions and thoughts as they come.
After a few days of being with the child and getting acquainted, the child will be able to be involved in decisions around their basic needs, and various supports such as obtaining an ID, important documents, transportation to and from school and medical appointments as well as just getting some one on one time with their advocate. The child also has access to a Survivor Advocate, so they may be able to process their emotions and meet someone who has come from similar situations and has successfully made it out of the life.
What Comes Next
What we see with the children who have all these services and people wrapped around them is hope, resiliency, and drive. Sometimes, the child may find it difficult to adjust to the program and trust the people that are walking into their lives for the first time, but after a while, we see the child get stronger and more secure in many ways.
There are many things that can impact the safety and overall health of a child who has survived a tumultuous life. Some of the things we have seen over time to be effective is building a healthy relationship with the child. The child has been conditioned to respond to and survive in some of the most dangerous environments and may know only unhealthy people overall. When a child sees and recognizes that you are genuinely interested in their well-being, it can take time for them to understand. The consistent nature of our relationship has been healing for many youth, and the child soon sees that no matter where they are or what they do, they are not judged or condemned for their actions and are loved unconditionally to where they feel safe and stable to stand on their own.
We have the opportunity to build relationships with the most amazing kids! This wouldn’t be possible without the support of the community — financial support means we get to work with more kids and help meet more needs. It takes $250 per month for us to respond to a crisis followed by a year of advocacy and case management for one survivor. Every dollar counts, we hope you’ll consider making a one-time donation or becoming a monthly partner with us at www.savinginnocence.org/donate. If you would like to give more tangibly, we also have an Amazon wishlist. Thank you for your support!
Organizations like Saving Innocence are working to provide survivors with much needed resources to aid in recovery and to reduce vulnerabilities that lead to re-victimization. Recovery is a journey, and one that requires support. Aftercare programs are severely underfunded in the US, if you can donate, it will make a difference.