300,000: The number of children being sex trafficked in the United States every year.
32: The number of states that continue to criminalize child trafficking victims.
12 to 14: The average age of youth being sex trafficked.
7: The lifespan of a youth once they are in “the life.”
Those statistics are enough for me to see why I do what I do. But one of the frequently asked question I get about commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) is, “Why do you care?”
Because it is an egregious violation of human rights.
Because it is a public health crisis.
Because it is the 21st century and children are still being raped for profit.
Because keeping silent changes nothing.
Because I have a four year old.
In my pre-mommy era, I imagined that some of my biggest parenting challenges would be potty training, bedtime revolts, getting yelled at for cutting a PB&J sandwich the wrong way, or singing one nursery rhyme on a loop for a solid year. But nothing prepared me for the day Rheya asked what it is that I do.
How do I begin to talk about sexual exploitation to a preschooler? How do I tell her that every statistic I read I imagine how it could’ve been her or one of her friends? How do I describe that kicked-in-the-stomach feeling or the lump in my throat when I read a story about another four year old found in her home drugged and naked?
I use three words: Safety, healing and empowerment. Whether it’s over chocolate milk or while reading a book, we talk about what those words mean. When we talk about her day at school, we find examples of safe choices, coping or standing up for herself or her friends. When we role play scenarios we start to feel what those words mean. Rheya is the biggest reason why I pour all my energy into those three words every. single. day. She is teaching me that there are no short cuts. When I talk to her about what it is that I do, she never asks why I care. It must have made perfect sense when I told her that every child deserves to have a childhood. That every child deserves to go to school, have friends, live in a loving home filled with toys, books, clean clothes and warm food, and be surrounded by safe grown-ups.
Here are a few more reasons why I care.
Because I cannot look the other way, while I work hard to provide a safe and empowering home for my own.
Because I see my own child in each of those stories.
Because I want to see each and every one of these girls live beyond the seven year sentence. I want to see them grow up to be strong, whole and empowered women.
This is for the safety, healing and empowerment of each and every girl in each and every community.
Who do we help?
Most of the youth involved in the sex trade are runaways from abusive and neglectful homes of origin or already involved in the child welfare system. There are currently only a handful of therapeutic, residential programs in the entire country created specifically for this population. Resilience Rising is in the process of becoming another one of these homes. We are based in Colorado but can take youth from anywhere in the country.
What do we provide?
We have the capacity to house eight female youth and two small children to accommodate teenage mothers. Resilience Rising provides such basic needs as shelter, food, clothing, and nurturing; case management for medical and dental care, substance abuse treatment, and legal advocacy; onsite mental health services, including individual, group, creative arts, and animal therapy; an onsite school, focusing on GED attainment and college placement; and an onsite physical fitness program.
Where are we right now?
Resilience Rising is in its final stages of opening, which includes inspections and licensing through various county and state entities. Once completed, we are aiming for a fall grand opening. We have begun outreach to the local FBI’s Innocence Lost Task Force, multiple district attorneys’ offices, juvenile probation, and social services. All have youth on their caseloads ready for placement and are eager for Resilience Rising to open its doors. Your donations towards Resilience Rising’s team in the Justice Run will allow us to open our doors as soon as possible to vulnerable youth desperately needing a place to call home.
At Resilience Rising we believe that it takes a village to raise a child. We hope that you will join our village as we fight the sexual exploitation of American children. You can learn more about our background, our program, and our team by visiting our website at www.resilience-rising.org. Thank you for believing in these girls and in the work we do. We couldn't do what we do without YOU!