As I write this, we have just accepted and picked up our seventh resident at Dawn’s Place. Seven bedrooms are occupied, seven therapy sessions are scheduled, seven monthly gift cards are being given out for personal items, and seven women have a safe space to recover from the atrocity of human trafficking. When I have my Executive Director hat on, I am thrilled that we can provide a rehabilitative program for women to reclaim their lives. It warms my heart knowing that seven women are off the streets and can sleep in a comfy bed with access to food, case management, and therapy.
However, when I put my social worker hat on I see our seven residents and wish that they did not need somewhere like Dawn’s Place because we have all worked to eradicate the evil of sex trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation from our society.
Nobody should have to go through what our residents have experienced. Their stories are not necessarily “dinner table” conversations, yet they bravely and appropriately, share them with us so they can begin the incredibly hard work of healing.
Each time they share their painful experiences, I find myself wondering what more I can do. What can we do? When educating people about this horrendous human rights violation, one thing I always include in my presentations is that we, as a society, have placed the burden of negative judgment on those who have been forced to sell themselves so that others can make a profit. We may think of Kensington Avenue and shudder at the thought of the drug addicts and the prostitutes who walk the streets all day and night. But, do we ever think about what is going on beyond what we can see? If we could switch our mentality from judging and pitying “the prostitutes” or fantasizing that they might have a happy ending like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, or believing that trafficking and exploitation only happen when a child is snatched off the streets in another country…if only we could believe that they are not “prostitutes” but they are being prostituted. The conditions of prostitution are tragic, and when they don’t perform at the level their abuser demands, they are beaten and abused beyond belief.
Our seven residents are daughters, sisters, aunts, mothers, and friends. Our seven residents did not ask for the traumas they endured. Our seven residents no longer want to be forced to perform sexual acts on demand for fear of being tortured and abused. Our residents are victims of a multi-billion-dollar business that continues to operate because there are not enough laws in place to make the buyer and seller accountable for their sins against humanity.
Our seven residents are also amazing examples of what can happen when a safe space is provided for healing and growth. They are meeting their goals, beginning to believe in themselves more, and challenging themselves to live a different life. I am inspired by them every single day, and they make me want to be a better advocate, educator, and human.
So, what can you do? You can help shift the mindset, you can donate so Dawn’s Place can continue to provide much needed services to survivors, or you can schedule a presentation for your group so that more people can learn that sex trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation are nothing like what is portrayed in past and recent movies. We are so grateful for all of your support and all of the ways you already make a significant contribution so that our residents can continue to work at and walk the path of healing with our support. much-needed
Sr. Meaghan Patterson