Recently The New Colossus launched another support group for vulnerable teens, this one in a residential treatment facility for girls ages 12-17. We meet with them every other week and talk not only about human trafficking, but empathy, self worth, and identity. These are girls that have been forced to grow up quicker than other kids their age, and have experienced things we are finally helping them put words and feelings to.
After one of our meetings with this group of girls one of them approached us as we were ending our time. She had a folded up piece of paper in her hand that she slid to us as she looked around. On it she wrote:
“I was being forced to take pictures, naked pictures, and send them to someone. It is still happening to my friend.”
After sitting with us for that first group, 50 minutes, she was able to tell a secret that had been keeping her feeling trapped for too long. We urged her to write down every detail possible, even though it was painful, just to get it out. We also told her that staff was here to help in these situations and that to help her friend, authorities should be notified. Her bravery coming forward to us gave her the confidence needed to write out her story, meet with her therapist, and even get needed information to authorities to get this exploiter off the street.
What this young girl went through was traumatizing and she is only at the beginning of her healing journey, but she also prevented other girls from the same fate. She took her power back by handing us that crumpled up piece of paper and proved once again that meeting kids where they are at, having honest conversations, and giving them a safe space to open up can all work in making Zero victims of human trafficking possible.