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That’s what we believe restoration is. It’s a long term commitment. It is a finding out about the person, finding out about the people, and figuring out a way for them to be able to choose to come out, or to choose to come out with their children. That’s restoration and its rescue.
Hello, and welcome to Invading the Darkness: stories from the fight against child sex trafficking, featuring Linda Smith, the founder of Shared Hope International. Join Linda as she shares stories from her 23 years of fighting the battle of domestic minor sex trafficking. Our desire is that each episode of Invading the Darkness will help you understand the importance of fighting child sex trafficking, as well as equip you to join in that fight. In this episode, Linda shares her perspective on rescue oriented solutions. She contrasts rescue with restorative initiatives, and shows that in the end, complete restoration is true rescue.
Not very long after I started helping to build the other villages around the world, I started realizing there was something here, I didn’t know for sure what it was. But I started reaching out and talking to other people, called prostitutes, that if that’s a place to start, maybe it would be a place I could get some insights. Well, I ended up finding some powerful women who are working and ministering to those the world calls prostitutes. Some have more kids, some are women, and they were going out to the streets, they were establishing safe houses where they could come and clean up, maybe not even stay, but be treated with dignity. And one by one around the nation, I realized I was late in coming to the work that they’d been doing for a long time. Which is often the case in the history of this, we just start in the movement somewhere with somebody or with a little bit of knowledge, started realizing that they were treated as children as prostitutes. They were shunned. They weren’t given services. And even at the time that I was talking to them a few years back now, these women would be reflecting on how they’d been treated so shamefully and called prostitutes when they were prostituted children that just started to have birthdays.
Well, I started learning from them. I needed to be there to let them do what was in their heart, or to give them a safe place of not being rejected, or judged, that they could start building their self confidence, get their education. And so I decided to build the WIN program in our corporate office. Now, what was that going to look like? Well, it ended up looking like this: a nine month program to begin with (most go beyond that). Only a few at a time. But being aligned to learning how to do basic office functions, everything from answering multiple line phones to computer and that’s grown and grown that computer use to be able to organize an event, to be able to carry themselves with dignity and respect others around them. Learn to moderate their language, to be less about themselves, and more about other people. So they’d be accepted the way they really wanted. None of us want to be looked at and looked out with pity. They were people, they had dignity and pride. And they didn’t want to be treated and looked down on and unfortunately, many services or ministries tend to do that. They don’t mean to, but they just feel sorry for the person. So they approach it that way. And yet they will reject their love and concern because they could see in the eyes, the pity. So we started a program where actually you wouldn’t even know who had been trafficked anymore, within Shared Hope and in our offices. But we started seeing women blossom. We ended up seeing some like to go into event planning, some into speaking, some just loved the organization of an office, they’d like to inventory, they’d like to organize, and that was their skill set. We’ve had two that have become very strong in accounting. That’s restoration. But it’s also rescue.
One of the women who came into the program years ago, she came in with three little kids. She didn’t look up at you, she wouldn’t look you in the eyes. We started with just basic functions she could do well, and she did. A lot of affirmation, a lot of support, she needed a lot of medical care. And you know, we don’t think about that. But it’s kind of hard to smile, and be happy when your teeth have been knocked out, or you ground them down to where you have infections. You can’t be strong, it’s hard to look up. So we look to the medical, sometimes they need to talk to somebody. Sometimes it’s just another person trafficked, who is strong and stable to say, “I did it, you can do it too.” But each one of the women is very uniquely different. Hope for today, you can go in and do something, you can do it well, maybe it takes you 20 times to do it well. But you get that affirmation, you’re ready to go to the next thing. It might take two years for somebody and two months for somebody else. But we’re all different. And so that is what we believe is restoration. We believe it is long term, it’s continuing to hold hands, it is letting them make a choice, and then another choice. And then realizing that now that they did get through school, they could maybe go to college and become a nurse, they could go to college and become a business person. Or maybe they’ll have the courage to believe some man would want to marry them and love them completely as they are. We’ve got a lot of marriages now. And we have good marriages and babies and specialized care if you’re HIV positive, so you don’t pass it to the baby at birth.
Having full lives started with one step for each of these women and children. And that’s what we believe restoration is. It’s a long term commitment. It is a finding out about the person, finding out about the people, and figuring out a way for them to be able to choose to come out or to choose to come out with their children. That’s restoration and its rescue. Now, I get corrected every once in a while about a rescue. One where we actually did take a child. And maybe I’ll tell you about that some time. But you want to make sure you have the mommy, someone else that understands the situation. Because you realize the child is involved somewhere with other people. They feel kidnapped. And that’s not rescue.
Sometimes in helping people that have been victimized, but don’t want to be perceived as a victim, you’ll get somebody who will challenge you to the point of you not really knowing what to do and not even sure if you want to do it. Well into the WIN program, which is the restoration program in our corporate offices that helps these young women, build occupations and learn to work and work regularly and show up. I ended up meeting a young woman who was sent to me by a man who worked at a church program. It was a place for the street kids to come off and a big gym and he said there’s a volunteer actually she was on community service. She just got out of prison. But he said there’s this young woman, and she’s one one of your girls and one like you help and he just kept going on. I said, Okay, and he started telling me a little bit about her. I said, “Well, you know, I think this would be best.” We just have dinner together after church in a group. I said, “Why don’t we just have a group dinner? We’ll just go and you just make sure that you and she sit aside me you introduce me.” So he told her he was bringing her to introduce me and we started visiting. I knew just enough to know that she’d been trafficked as a child. She didn’t act like a victim at all. She was kind of you know, if you ever picture somebody with their arms crossed, she had a bit of a countenance. And yet there was something strong within her.
So I said, “Well, this is what we have at Shared Hope. We have this program where you can learn.” Now, remember, she was trafficked young, her stepfather had trafficked or you don’t know that, but I’ll maybe I’ll tell you some more later. And she didn’t go to school. He started prostituting her out of the basement at nine and this long story she ended up in prison. And so even though she’d had some basic education in prison, she really didn’t have an education. So it would take us being sure that she was literate. She had enough education to build on, but she could apply. Now, I don’t bring people into that program personally. Because there needs to be people who have walked in her shoes that understood what it would be to be homeless or out there, or lonely or brought into America as a child themselves. So I told them, “This is a girl that I’d like you to interview, but you make the choice if she’s ready for the program.” Well, they came back with exactly what I thought she has got an attitude, but we think she’s going to be great. She learned like a sponge, you could tell she was smart. Even though she had an attitude, her supervisor had an attitude too so she understood her. It was really quite a ride, we made her an employee because she had a felony on her record. And it’s very hard to rent or get a job, much of anything when you’re a new felon out of jail. And if she could get anything, it’d be so low, she couldn’t live on it. So we got somebody we trained ourselves over the nine months to be able to do things that she was getting good at, and we trained her further. And even into accounting, which uses today in their the small business that she and her husband have. Now you can see some of this turned out pretty good. But it was a road.
So I get a call in the middle of the night from the fiscal manager who she was working with to learn accounting. And now she doesn’t call me (especially at night) she says, “Yeah Yvonne’s in jail.”
“What did she do?”
She ripped a door off of an apartment, a woman had her keys inside and locked the door and she ripped it off. I said “Well, I knew she was strong. But her anger would get out of control.” But in the wisdom of this fiscal manager, she said, “What do we do?” And I said, “Well, most of our women end up having second chances or we’ve never had one thrown in jail. And she maybe wouldn’t have been thrown in jail had she not had the felony, but the moment they saw the felony, then automatically they considered her violent. Now this was years and years and years ago when she was a child, but it was tracking with her until she was this young 20 some year old adult. So we decided that she would not get paid for the days that she served in jail. Her penalty would be that. She needed one because she was learning to not be violent herself. But she was brought back in. She went to work, she just had a short check the next time. Now that wasn’t the only time she got violent. She threw a cup of coffee at a man outside who looked at her wrong. But over four years, yeah, it took a while of her being an employee of Shared Hope, she became this gracious woman. She had two babies that she had had going in and out of prison, in the last part of her finally leaving prison and had lost them. She got them back in that four years. She learned how to be a mother. She married. Yes, every time she’d come back, she’d find the same guy on the street she loved. He cleaned up and they married. This love story is just awesome. They own a business. they own their home now. Their credit has been rebuilt. But what a miracle from the time when I would get a call if I would verify and stand with this young girl. So she could rent a place a long way from that story of restoration, but it was one person at a time. Whether it was the man at the gym that just knew she deserved better. Or if it was the fiscal manager who just kept trying over and over who finally Yvonne just wanted to please. And then she did so well. These are people that were just stepping stones. And we walked together for four years and hundreds of thousands of dollars to be sure that she could stand on her own feet and be the woman that God intended her to be. A strong victorious mom, a great wife, and a person that now goes into the prisons and speaks to these women to give them hope that they can be like her. They don’t have to go back out and be what the world intended them to be. So yes, restoration is rescue. Doesn’t happen in three 30 days, doesn’t happen in three months, doesn’t happen in three years. It’s a process of us as a society, and some of us individually standing and walking arm to arm with people who’ve been victimized by the act of trafficking.
Thank you for listening to Invading the Darkness: stories from the fight against child sex trafficking. If you would like to learn how you can help put an end to child sex trafficking, please visit sharedhope.org/takeaction. New episodes of Invading the Darkness are released every Tuesday at 9am Pacific. If you have enjoyed this episode, please consider leaving us a five star rating as well as a written review. Join us in episode nine as Linda gets to the heart of the issue behind child sex trafficking. We hope you will join us. Thank you again for listening to Invading the Darkness.