They Don’t Choose To Be Trafficked!

Sex trafficking has received a lot of press this month.  Between Backpage.com and laws passed in California – everyone has something to say these days on the issue.  With this extra press has come the ever-present comment in articles that teens have chosen this life and should be left alone.

Teenagers think they know everything because they have not yet learned how much they don’t know.  They don’t have the benefit of foresight or of past experience.  A teenager looks down the road, sees a turn, and thinks that’s the end – their happily ever after.  They don’t realize that it’s simply where their life takes a turn and continues.  They don’t realize that around that curve, for better or worse, are further consequences of their choices.long-road

Child sex trafficking victims are no different than other teenagers when it comes to making decisions.  They see two roads in front of them: a nice short one and a much longer, rockier one.  The short road is easy to navigate, it’s familiar, they know exactly what will happen next.  The long road is terrifying.  Navigating that long road requires the support of others; the work is hard, excruciating at times; and they can’t see the end of the road.  How can they go down a road without knowing what’s waiting for them at the end?  

As we’ve said many times before in other blog posts: teenagers need the support of adults.  They need guidance from those who have been there before, who know that the long road must be traveled, and who know that it is worth the journey.  Teenagers need someone  who will show up and fight for them when they lose their way. How are you being called to help the life of a teen?

*This article was extracted from a longer blog post we posted in October “They Don’t Know Everything (But Don’t Tell Them That)”


We Have A Dream

“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.'” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

All men are created equal.  Our nation was built on this notion, and yet we continue to fall short.  We are once again fighting a battle against the idea that there are some in our nation who are less than others.  We are once again falling short of the definition of “men” in this context: a human being; a person.

At StreetLightUSA, we have a dream.  This dream is not dissimilar from Dr. King’s dream; in fact it is the same dream.  We dream every day that our nation would rise up and finally say “No More!”  All men are created equal.  Every person, from our youngest to oldest citizen, is created equal.  Just as it is not right to own people, it is not right to buy people.  We have a dream that our children will no longer be abused and sold for sex.  That the men and women buying and selling our children will stop, look in that child’s eyes, and see the innocent soul that they are exploiting.  We have a dream that these children will find their way safely home, that they will be loved and cared for, and their lives wi5676197533_2b88c26226_oll be lived to the fullest and their dreams achieved.  This is our dream.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Many people’s day-to-day lives are unaffected; this war on child sex trafficking does not appear to affect them.  But does that make it right to sit back in silence?  Is it right to allow thousands of children to be raped every single day as their pimps make hundreds of thousands of dollars every year off of their exploitation?  Is it right that the sale of children’s bodies for sex is one of the most lucrative industries in the world?  Staying silent is being indifferent.  We ask you to stand with us.  Stand up and say “NO MORE!!  I will no longer live in a world where this is okay!”

“The time is always right to do what is right.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

It is never too late.  You can make a difference in the life of a child sex trafficking victim today.

My Turn: The battle against child sex slavery moves to the internet

“We have an obligation to protect our children, to prize them as the treasure they are. Despite this, our youth are being sold for sex while the sellers and facilitators are prolifically profiting from the traumatization and abuse of our children, and thus tearing at the fabric of our society.” – Lynda Hartzler, community relations professional and director of Ambassadors for Change, StreetLightUSA
StreetLightUSA’s Lynda Hartzler published an OpEd article in Wednesday’s Republic and AZ Central.  View the full article here:

My Turn: The battle against child sex slavery moves to the internet

A New Year of Hope

Happy New Year to all of our supporters! Thank you for your continued support as we enter 2017. Every year comes with fresh possibilities and new opportunities; we are so excited to enter 2017 with you!

In honor of the new year, we’d like to invite you to re-familiarize yourselves with ways to engage with StreetLightUSA. We have many opportunities to become involved, and what better way to start off a new year than helping young girls heal from trauma.

How can you help our girls this year?

2017 is a new year of hope for our girls.  We are so grateful to each and every one of our supporters that continue to walk this journey with us!

You Change Lives

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To mark the end of this season of giving, we want to thank our generous supporters.  Every donation of time, wishlist items, and money has aided in the healing of victims of child sex trafficking.

You, our loyal donors, are the light in the darkness for our girls.  Because of your kindness and unselfish annual financial support, StreetLightUSA can offer a caring hand to trafficked and abused young girls who have no other resources. Together we  make it possible to mend these young girls’ spirits and assure they are protected as children should be.  Your year-end contribution changes lives and  makes their transition from trauma to triumph possible.

As I close my blog for 2016, please know how much you are all appreciated. From everyone at StreetLightUSA,  our very best wishes for a safe and joyous New Year!

*Inclusion of links does not imply endorsement or support of any of the linked information or providers by StreetLightUSA.

Warm Winter Wishes

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It’s true.  You can feel the end of the year.  That feeling is different for every person and every year.  We think of the holidays as a time of warmth, love, generosity, and the aromas of baking hams and cookies.  It is in this spirit we wish all of our StreetLightUSA supporters a season full of warmth in your hearts and in your homes.  For the young girls at StreetLightUSA, the holiday has a very different meaning.

This time of the year is difficult for the girls in our care, particularly as they try to  cope with their circumstances, battle their feelings of unworthiness and absence of family.  Please know how much your support helps to show them that they are indeed worthy; they do not deserve the cold loneliness of life on the streets.  Because of your support, StreetLightUSA is able to offer these girls a better life filled with warmth, kindness, renewed trust, respect and most importantly, a new set of life skills for their future.  As 2016 comes to a close, please consider making a year-end contribution to StreetLightUSA.  Your gift will positively change a young girl’s life forever.  What better way to end one year and begin another!

From all of us at StreetLightUSA, may your December be filled with warm winter wishes and your holidays with family, good fellowship and cheer.  From our StreetLightUSA family to yours, best wishes for a happy and safe New Year.

  

*Inclusion of links does not imply endorsement or support of any of the linked information or providers by StreetLightUSA.

Hope for the Holidays

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Hope comes in many forms for the girls at StreetLightUSA.  For one girl, hope comes when she finally gets her first A on a school paper.  For another, hope comes when she gets a medical exam for the first time since she can remember.  Being able to shower, sleeping in a real bed, having a roof over her head – hope comes in all shapes and sizes for the girls at StreetLightUSA.

Where do all these little pieces of hope come from?  They come from each and every one of you, our supporters.  Your gifts and donations provide us with the means to transport the girls to school so they can get their first A, medical examinations so they can be healthy, and providing everything they need to make their cottages feel like home.  Their hope comes from you; along with the girls, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

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StreetLightUSA cottage decorated for the holidays

Would you continue being a light in the darkness for our girls as you plan your year-end giving?  A donation of any size will bring hope to our girls who are spending the holiday season away from their family and friends; fighting the darkness of their past.  We appreciate you keeping StreetLightUSA in mind – shining a light in the darkness for our girls.

 

*Inclusion of links does not imply endorsement or support of any of the linked information or providers by StreetLightUSA.

Her True Hidden Treasure – Learning to Trust

Trust is a finicky thing, a truly difficult task. In the TV show Once Upon A Time, Emma has the perfect super power: the power to tell when someone is lying. Flying and

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super strength are great ways to protect yourself and those you love, but imagine if parents could give Emma’s power to their kids. So much energy is spent by parents and caregivers teaching children to be kind to people but also to be careful not to trust someone you don’t know. It would certainly be nice to be able to know who you can trust and who you can’t – no guesswork, no learning the hard way.

We live in the real world, not in a TV series. The girls at StreetLightUSA do not have Emma’s super power. They have to learn as we all do, the slower more painful waywhen it comes to trust. We have girls who trust no one and girls who trust everyone – both extremes have proven equally harmful in their lives, often resulting in attachment issues.adobe-spark39

Children with closed-off hearts are an everyday occurrence at StreetLightUSA. For many of them, the last person they trusted turned on them, selling their body for profit. In order to survive, they vowed to never trust anyone again. If the only person you trust is yourself, no one can break your heart. We work diligently everyday to show the girls that they can trust us. Every day poses challenges that test their trust – girls leave, new ones arrive, people, including family members let them down. With time, patience, and perseverance, a girl will take the first step towards a trusting relationship with staff. We can then guide her towards forming healthy attachments in her life.

At the other end of the spectrum, attaching to everyone who comes across their path opens an ever-revolving door of hurt. These girls have big hearts and are ready to be everyone’s best friend. They lack the discernment to tell who is trustworthy and who is simply passing through their life ready to take advantage of them. We work diligently, teaching these girls how to integrate healthy boundaries into their relationships.

It’s easy to dream of super powers and fantasize about how they could save lives, especially at StreetLightUSA. Our girls do not have any super powers, but they are more resilient than they realize. Behind their attachment issues, whether they cling to people too much or not enough, are their hidden treasures. Attachment issues do not have to define their lives. They can learn how to trust again, and begin to have hope for a normal future. Triumph is never out of their grasp.

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It’s Time to Struggle

I read an article last week about Dr. Denis Mukwege, a man who runs a hospital in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  Already that sounds like one of the most courageous jobs a man can have.  Then in the next sentence I read that his hospital, Panzi Hospital, specifically treats women with gynecological injuries.  They have treated over 45,000 women, from toddlers to seniors, who have been raped by rebel groups and the Congolese military.
What is it with our world?  How do people become so corrupted that places like Panzi Hospital become so necessary?  How does one human being look at another and decide to rape her with “extreme violence”?  How does a man look at a child consciously decide to rape that child?  What is it with our world??

While we are constantly grateful at StreetLightUSA that we are able to exist outside of a war-torn country, we face corruption on the same basic level: rape, men believing that a girl was put on this earth for their pleasure.  In the United States, countless men believe the same as the military in the Congo: I can do whatever I want to this little girl.

“Without a struggle, there can be no progress.” – Frederick Douglass

Seriously? ?  What does that even mean?  Children have to suffer so we can make progress??

 

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So I thought about it.  A lot.  Amidst my rage at the problems in the Congo and the arrest of Backpage.com’s Carl Ferrer and cohorts, I pondered Mr. Douglass’ quote of wisdom and it finally dawned on me: if there’s a struggle, someone is fighting back.  If no one fights back against the cruelty, there is no struggle.  Nothing will change.  But if there is a struggle, if someone fights back, change can be made.  When men like Dr. Denis Mukwege heal women that were seen as worthless, they can rise up again.  They can show the world that they are valuable.  When these women heal, they have a chance to tell their story and bring light to the injustices of their world.  Because someone took the time to love these women and help make them whole again, progress is made.

StreetLightUSA demands a struggle.  With every fiber of our being, we demand that the world struggle over the rape of our children.  We demand that the world hear the struggles of the girls right here in our own backyard.  Girls right here, in every US city, are sold and tortured and raped every single day.  No.  More.  We are here to heal these girls and tell their stories.  Children all over the world need people to stand up for them and declare “this is not right!!”  We are standing up for these girls, we are fighting back, we are helping them find their voice, and we are saying NO MORE.  Someone has to fight back, and we will be on the front lines of that fight until ever child is has a chance to write her new story!adobe-spark15

Stay Armed or Surrender?

“Life is a battle, and you either enter it armed or surrender immediately.” – Gilmore Girls

For a teenage girl, the life battle is internally focused – even more so for a trafficking victim.  For the girls that come to StreetLightUSA, life has been a battle and they armed themselves with the things available to them – drugs, alcohol, self harm, mentally detaching, denial, and even their sheer willpower to survive.

The defensive weapons of trafficking victims are born out of necessity, when they had no one else to fight for them.  It’s all they had to make it through the life that was dealt to them. Obviously these defenses do not sustain them to build a normal life. When they come through the doors of StreetLightUSA, a whole new battle faces them – laying down the weapons they know and learning how to use new, empowering ones that can last a lifetime.

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Asking the girls that come to StreetLightUSA to lay down their defensive weapons is not dissimilar to asking someone to lay their life on the line.  You’re asking a teenage girl who has looked after herself to let go of the only things in her life that she has control over.  The laying down of the very things that have kept her going is an excruciating but crucial step.

Asking this of the girls is necessary, but never easy.  Suicide attempts and self harm are all too familiar among the girls in our care.  When they experience trauma triggers, their instinct is to turn to their defensive weapons, they don’t know what else to do.  How can I get through this feeling without something to numb the pain?  If I can’t make it go away, I think I might die.  Just make it stop!  

“Did you really want to die?”
“No one commits suicide because they want to die.”
“Then why do they do it?”
“Because they want to stop the pain.”
― Tiffanie DeBartolo, How to Kill a Rock Star

Our staff at StreetLightUSA is well-equipped to handle the emotions of the girls in our care.  We recognize the warning signs and do everything we can to prevent suicide attempts.  We also help the girls figure out what triggered them in the first place.  Finding the source helps prevent the girl from reaching the point of harming herself in the future.

We will look more in depth at self harm later in September.  In the meantime, in honor of suicide prevention week, we would like to equip our supporters with suicide prevention resources.

Mayo Clinic has an informative page we recommend for parents of teens. Teen Suicide: What parents need to know.

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