Recently, 15-year-old Keith faced his exploiter in court. Often, for a successful prosecution, a testimony from victims is critical. This is not something we ask children to do, but something we support them in if they choose to participate. A number of people stood by Keith as he gathered up the courage to face this moment. They were determined to support Keith, not only for his future, but for the futures of many other children like him.
Without a focus on justice, there’s a dark possibility that for every child we care for, another spot for a child to be victimized is vacated.
The eerie reality is that without vigilant consideration of justice, we could inadvertently multiply the actual number of children victimized. The survivors in our care intuit this very clearly. These “other children” who need protection are strong on their hearts as they bravely seek justice:
“He should be imprisoned because of what he has done to us and what he could do to other children.” -Isaac
“I will be happy if I will know that he will be in prison and he will not be able to do what he did to me to other children.” -Sonya
“He used his money to take advantage and abuse us. I’m excited because in truth, I can somehow protect other children that he could abuse in the future.” -Victor
“I’m embarrassed because I have to tell everything in front of many people but I will do it and I will pinpoint him when I see him. I will do this so that he will be punished and his deceiving us and other children won’t happen again. I’m happy because I know that this will not happen again to other children because he will be in prison.” -Raul
NO “OTHER CHILDREN” SHOULD HAVE TO TESTIFY AGAINST A TRAFFICKER. IRONICALLY, THAT’S WHY CHILDREN CONTINUE TO TESTIFY.
We throw ourselves into prevention work to keep other children out of the witness chair. In the meantime, our Survivor Care team is determined to offer children the support needed during the hearings. Keith was recently one of the youth in our care who acted as a witness in the court case against the man who abused him. He was only fifteen.
Social workers from Love146 and other organizations working on this case made sure that nothing would take him by surprise. They took him out to lunch with his legal support to talk him through the procedures, and they helped him organize the thoughts that would go into his statement. In fact, the Private Prosecutor even found time before the hearing to sit down with Keith and offer a word of personal encouragement.
“BE BRAVE. YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE AFRAID
BECAUSE YOU’RE GOING TO TESTIFY THE TRUTH.”
She said she would keep an eye on him during the hearing in case he felt scared. And that was important. We wanted him to know that although he was the only one who could give his testimony, he wouldn’t be in it alone.
The hearing was happening far away in a big city, so Keith took an airplane there with our social worker. They ate breakfast together, and then headed to the courthouse. And there were people waiting for him: his family had come to support him, along with his good friend Victor. Victor had lived with Keith in Love146’s safe home for boys and had been reintegrated into his community nearby. They hugged and spent time catching up before the hearing started.
AND WHEN HE WAS CALLED IN, KEITH SPOKE WITH THE COURAGE
OF SOMEONE WHO KNOWS HE IS NOT ALONE.
His family was so proud of him. They took him out to lunch afterwards with Victor and celebrated. It meant the world to Keith to be able to spend time with them. He cares deeply about the people in his life. Keith has been working hard to earn money, doing garden work and tutoring. He spends some of his earnings during outings, but he saves most of it. Before he left, he gave an envelope of money to his parents. With some he had left over, he bought some treats to bring back to the other boys in Love146’s Survivor Care.
We want the children in our care to know that their voices are important and powerful, even that they can shape the future of other children. On just that note, after the hearing, Keith shared: