Girls On A Journey
More than 100,000 American children are at risk for commercial sexual exploitation each year.
U.S. Department of State, November 2009
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has identified the Washington, DC area as one of the 14 major sex trafficking centers in the U.S. YFT is the only facility in Virginia and in the mid-Atlantic region that works to offer safe and secure residential and specialized recovery service for girls ages 13 to 19 who have been sexually exploited/sex trafficked. YFT professionals help girls who are victims of sexual abuse and trafficking to regain their lives through individual service plans that set weekly priorities and goals for each girl in their education, residence, counseling/therapy, supervision and safety, self-reliance and relationships.
- According to the U.S. Department of Justice, human trafficking has become the second fastest growing criminal industry — just behind drug trafficking — with children accounting for roughly half of all victims.
- The FBI has identified the Washington, DC area as one of the 14 major sex trafficking centers in the U.S.
- 100,000 American children are exploited through the commercial sex industry each year.
- The average age of entry into CSEC is 12 to 14 years old.
- Human Trafficking is a $150 billion dollar industry worldwide
The Girls on a Journey program (GOAJ) offers trauma specific treatment to survivors of commercial sexual exploitation. Since its inception in 2008 the GOAJ program has served hundreds of girls. Survivors of CSEC have experienced complex emotional, physical, and sexual trauma requiring specific treatment interventions. Survivors of CSEC experience emotional, behavioral, and mental health symptoms that often go unidentified or misdiagnosed. Without proper support and treatment the risk for being re-victimized is high. Through the Girls on a Journey Program survivors receive treatment and support to address safety needs, gain understanding of the victimization they have experienced, improve self-esteem, develop motivation for change, improve life skills, and empower them to reach future goals. Program components include:
- Assessment and diagnosis
- Administration of the TSCC, APS, SASSI, and CSSRS
- Trauma-specific therapy for survivors and their families
- Therapeutic behavior management program
- Psycho-educational groups, such as anger management, social skills, stress management, communication skills and daily living skills
- Weekly priorities and goals review through individual treatment plan
- Independent living and job skills training
- Substance abuse education
- Substance abuse treatment (Matrix Model)
- Medical treatment
- Protection in partnership with police and FBI
- Community based support and partnerships with the private sector to provide valuable workforce development skills to the girls
- Animal assisted therapy
- Equine therapy
- Music and arts therapy
Fully accredited school (grades 7-12, GED)
- Adapted schedules if needed to support mental health needs
- Trauma informed teachers and staff
- Supportive interventions within the classroom (use of grounding objects, breaks, art, journaling, exercise, animal assisted therapy, or other coping strategies to assist in emotional regulation during the school day)
- Individualized educational goals
- Credit recovery
When I was 12 years old, I met this guy who was 18. I gravitated to this man because he made me feel safe and secure and gave me the attention from a man that I desperately desired. During the first six months I felt like I was in love with him. Well, things were about to change.
One evening when I was 13, he introduced me to two girls named Candy and Cherry. He told me that because of all the nice things he had done for me, it was now time for me to pay him back. He said that I had to go down the street to the strip club and dance.
The emotional connection that I thought I had with him began to vanish in my heart. The cloud was open 24 hours a day. He told me that I had to quit school because I had to earn “us” more money. One day Cherry left and he became extremely angry. I had seen him beat up other girls before and I was afraid that would happen to me. We ran around and he threw a bag on the bed. I asked him what that was, and he said that they were clothes and I had to put them on because he need to take some photos of me. I was so afraid, and once again I did what he told me to. He took the pictures and put them on the internet. Later that day he handed me a slip of paper with the name of a hotel with a room number on it. This was the very first time that a little girl's dream would begin to turn into a nightmare.
Immediately following the first experience with what he called a “customer,” I went back to my room, took a shower, and just cried. The emotions of feeling stupid, filthy, used, and taken advantage of, just overwhelmed me. It is so painful for me to share with you that this black hole would envelop me for the new few years of my life. Night after night, I would shower and cry, hoping the soap would wash away the filth I felt inside. I wanted to leave this life so bad, but I was told over and over the individual bones that would be broken in my body. One day he scared me so much and he told me that if he thought I would leave him he would start by killing my mom, my little sister, and then my brother. If that didn't work, he told me, they would just find my body somewhere. The fear of being hurt or even killed by my pimp was there every single day, and it never left. This lifestyle was telling me that I was becoming someone who I did not want to be. I wanted to run away from the flood of voices in my head that seemed to tell me who I was. I wanted to escape this slavery. I was shipped around the country from one strange city to another. I was locked, trapped, with a thousand voices running in my head.
In May of last year I was arrested. This would end of being the out I wanted. I would tell him I could not work because I had court. Thankfully and shockingly, I was rescued by the very police I had come to fear. I wasn't the criminal, but I was the victim. Before being rescued by law enforcement, I spent three years in slavery and my owner sold me and my body in prostitution to anyone who had money. Their fantasies were my nightmares.
I would like to tell you there were some people who helped me, but this would not be true, and because of this I began to hare everyone and everything. The daily pain was almost unbearable, making me understand why some people want to kill themselves. Then a miracle happened. A lady came into my life and began to tell me there was a way out. The lady told me there was a place in Virginia where I would be safe and have the opportunity to be normal again. So on September 2, I flew from Oregon to Virginia. I will share with you that I was very scared. As much as I hated the life that I was a slave to, I had the other side.
This place called YFT would be a place of restoration for me. In the beginning, it was a very difficult transition. As s result of the past three years, I was a very mean and angry person and that presented itself daily at YFT. YFT game me something that is so crazy to express in words, and even more difficult to accept- and that was love and acceptance. No matter how much I pushed them away and used violent works, they loved me.
I am still in the transformation process. I am no longer a slave, but a young lady who is free to be in a relationship by choice. I have been able to accept Jesus Christ in my life and see that his love was always there for me. Regardless of where I have been, he was faithful. I have gone from a young girl who was forced to dance to a young lady about to receive her diploma. After I graduate from college I want to open a home for girls like me, called Dust to Diamonds.
As much as my story hurts to share, I am blessed by all that the people at YFT and former Congresswoman Linda Smith have given me. And that is hope, healing, and a future.