Helping Change One Life at a Time!
Ed and I were blessed, today, to witness the graduation ceremony for a young sex trafficking victim, as she completed 7 months in the Wellspring Living Victory Program. A celebratory meal of spaghetti, with all the fixings, kicked off the festivities.
The 9th grader, whom I'll call "G" for Graduate, will be going back home to live with her family. G plans to finish high school, go to college, and become a counselor. G wants to help girls, like herself, avoid the mistakes she made.
I don't know the details of G's personal story, but I know that there are commonalities among many of the girls in Wellspring Living's Victory Program. Some girls are encouraged into sex trafficking by other girls their age, while some are wooed by pimps offering money and gifts, while initially posing as "boyfriends."
Some girls are beaten into submission by their pimps or by other girls in the "stable." Some girls are forced to have their pimp's name tattooed on their necks, or to be otherwise branded or marked.
Girls, like G, in the Victory program were most likely molested at a young age by someone who was not a stranger to them. While being trafficked, G may have been raped for profit 10-15 times a day, and forced to bring in $1,000 a day for her pimp.
Girls like G are "kept in line" through drugs, violence, torture, fear, and emotional blackmail. Girls aged 12-17, like those in Wellspring Living's Victory Program, are targeted by pimps and organized crime, because they are easier to control than older girls.
The average life expectancy of a girl "on the street" in sex trafficking is only 7 years. AIDS and violence take a major toll on victims.
G could be your daughter, sister, niece, or granddaughter. One minute G looks and acts with the confidence of someone in her twenties, the next she is more like a vulnerable, young child. G appears to be a "normal" teenager, but she is not. G is a Survivor. She has lived through a lot of trauma, and become stronger from her experiences.
G was portrayed by staff and volunteers as someone who is always respectful. She kept her room neat. She set goals and accomplished them. She was the first to be ready to work in class, and always remembered what was covered during prior sessions. G's peers--other girls in the Victory program--talked about how G encouraged them, made them study, and made them laugh!
G was honored, by staff and others, through Scripture readings, a poem, a song (sung by another Victory Program participant), and a slide show with special music. Staff and residents also personally selected attributes, and actions, for which G should be recognized, then presented G with certificates naming those characteristics.
G received flowers and other token gifts recognizing her accomplishments.
G's mother thanked Wellspring Living and our residential care partner. "Thank you for accepting my child. It has been a journey. Keep us in your prayers."
G's words (paraphrased and condensed):
"When I came into the Victory Program, I was determined to finish it....I realize I put my family through a lot of things that they did not deserve and could not really afford, and I am truly sorry for that....I decided to make some changes....I became more considerate of other people's feelings....I learned how to deal with things in different ways....I am happy I am changed. My life is on the right track, and I plan to keep it that way....To the Girls: I want to leave you with words of encouragement. Don't give up. Your day will come. Learn everything you can from the Victory Program."
To protect the identities of participants of the Victory Program, no photographs of the girls are shared. Instead, here are photos of two staff members honoring G today, as well as a video of another graduate's speech, read by a volunteer.
Wellspring Living will continue to mentor and follow up with G and her family, to ensure her continued success. If you would like to help Wellspring Rescue, Restore, and Renew girls like
G, you may text "FREEHER" to 85944, to make a $10.00 donation via your cell phone bill, right now! Please share this story, and the LINK FOR
"FREEHER" with others!