One of the biggest emotional challenges that new survivors face is a sense of isolation. After years of abuse under the control of their trafficker and after being seen so often by most laypeople as a perpetrator of a crime instead of a victim, a survivor may feel like they are the only one who’s going through trauma from exploitation. Our team at Alabaster Jar Project believes that uniting survivor sisters and giving them a safe space to share their story and support others is a necessary and invaluable element in their healing, so once a week, we offer a survivor-led support group that welcomes all women who are coming out of a life of any form of sex trafficking or sexual exploitation in the San Diego area.
Our weekly survivor support group is led by Jaimee Johnson and Marjorie Saylor, who are both survivors of exploitation employed by AJP. “It’s a place for healing,” Jaimee Johnson shares, explaining that the purpose of support group is “to give women a place to feel safe, create sisterhood, support each other, know they aren’t alone, find answers, seek wisdom, be open and honest and find their way through their journeys.” With an emphasis on community building, new survivors and survivor mentors alike can work on their restoration.
The group facilitators choose curriculums to study with group participants through an extensive process of researching what has been effective by other survivor leaders across the country. “We try to use trauma-informed curriculums created by the survivor for the survivor,” Marjorie Saylor explains. “Peer support through a support group’s own environment is scientifically proven to be helpful and we also get it in the materials we use.”
Not only are the support group curriculum topics essential in healing our community; we also offer dinner at every group, often donated by our organization’s volunteers, and participants are welcome to “shop” at our second hand clothing boutique and gather other free essential items. This group effort to prepare for the class and dinner is another way to bring our survivor sisters together and create a purpose for them in the group. “When a support group grows in size it is better to have more helping hands,” Marjorie states, “but as the group grows you will find that the attendees, as they find a home in the group, will fill in with helping in the areas needed, such as set up before group, clean-up afterwards, (and) set up of organizational structure.”
How have the support group facilitators seen the weekly meeting impact the group participants? “Completely,” says Jaimee. “I have seen the light in some women’s eyes sparkle as they realize solutions to things they have been struggling with. I have seen people open up and offer great support and love. I have seen it impact and help the facilitators. I have seen sisterhood and life long bonds be created. I have seen healing happen right before my eyes.”
“The group provides a sense of purpose after trauma,” Marjorie shares. “It provides shelter from a world that does not understand what they have been through, and friendship with the bond of survivor sisterhood that encourages true growth. I have seen weakness turn to strength, fear turn to courage, and lack of trust turn to eagerness to love and give again. I see so much triumph over trauma with movement from victim to survivor to thriver, as survival turns to revival in the lives of the women who commit to keep coming to the group.”
If you are a survivor of exploitation and would like to join our support group, please send a private message to our facebook page at facebook.com/alabasterjarprojector email us at firstname.lastname@example.org