What values do you raise your children with? Do you raise them in a Christian home? Take them to church? Do you motivate them to do well in school? Do you teach them how to be independent and take care of themselves?
What happens when they falter from their plans? Or worse, what can any of us do if we raise our children in the best home we can provide and yet a predator comes into their life, causing them to either take many steps backwards or even disappear from family life entirely?
Samantha* had a strong Catholic upbringing in her parents’ Northern Californian home. She excelled in school and had a burning ambition to become a professional musician, but like every young person, she had her fair share of setbacks, including a severe mental disorder and anger issues that followed her into adulthood. Around that time, she met a man online who she thought would be the love of her life, but he turned out to be a trafficking predator. He sexually exploited her for years, leaving her homeless when she tried to escape.
“That was really hard on my mom,” Samantha shares. “She didn’t know what was happening when it was going on, and when she found out, she thought it was all her fault. Not only that, but my abuser told me that she didn’t love me and made up a bunch of lies about her and my dad that I started to believe after a while. So when I first went into recovery, our relationship was very volatile. It’s difficult because deep down, I really loved her and knew that she loved me.”
Regardless of how it may seem from the outside, exploitation affects the entire family, not just the survivor herself. It creates tension in the family, harbors guilt from parents which can cause even them to lash out, and can damage relationships with children if the survivor is a mother. But that is not to say that there isn’t hope for her family relationship. With help from programs like Alabaster Jar Project, survivors can repair that relationship at their own pace.
“I drove 350 miles to her, then another 100 miles to get her to (Grace House,)” Irene*, Samantha’s mother, explains. “I guess that’s when she needed my help. There have been many times when I needed to step back and let her do what she thought was right. It’s the hardest thing to do as a parent, to sit back and watch.”
Through our residential program at Alabaster Jar Project, Samantha was able to get legal assistance, employment assistance, save money and repair her credit, but most importantly, she was able to do all she needed to in a safe, confidential location. “It wasn’t safe for me to go back and live with my mom because my abuser knew where we lived. Getting a fresh start at Grace House was integral to my healing and ultimately to my independence.” Samantha is now on good terms with all of her family members and has a strong relationship with her mom. “My mom is a hero. She did so much for me even when everyone else had given up on me. Someday, I hope to be a mom who loves her kids as much as she does.”
So how do we approach these conversations when we find that someone in our family has been exploited? Melanie*, Samantha’s cousin who was the first to reach out and help her, has some words of wisdom. “I think coming from a place of compassion in any situation, especially this one, is so important,” Melanie shares with us. “Listening with ears for support and free of judgement with only input meant for solution. Then researching available services and reaching out to those who best know how to help and protect with a plan of immediate care. Do everything in love.”
The first step to immediate care for anyone who has been trafficked or exploited is to call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888, you can be directed to resources in your area. We are connected with them and can provide services for human trafficking survivors if you are directed to our organization.
Please keep all survivors and their families in your prayers. And as always, thank you for supporting us.
written by Amanda Moon Ellevis