The education of youth is often interrupted by their exploitation. For children in our Survivor Care, re-engaging with school is like trying to climb a hill while carrying a heavy weight. The hill has typical steps and obstacles that everyone has to learn how to master. Like showing up on time. Like learning how to ask for your own makeup work. The kinds of things that every teenager has to learn how to do. Love146’s role is to make sure that the weight of exploitation and recovery doesn’t ultimately pull students backwards or prevent them from making that climb.
My first experience with this phrase is deeply etched in my mind: A young girl shared that she had met a group of people — people she thought were her friends. When things began to change, she wasn’t aware what was happening until it was too late. She said, “If only I’d known then what I know now.” These “friends” became her traffickers. They identified her vulnerability and need for connection, and they skillfully exploited it.
Giving up is never the right answer. Reevaluating, yes, reimagining, of course — but never giving up. Yet that was nearly the end result of one Volunteer Team after a year of floundering. What a mistake that would have been. They rebounded with more impact than they had considered possible. Here’s how it all went down.
Our Rapid Responses help youth understand how a perpetrator uses manipulation, tricks, and force to take advantage of them. We talk about how easy it is to be taken advantage of. How everyone has things they need, things they struggle with, and how someone could use these things to build trust for the sole purpose of exploitation. This may be the first time that he or she is told: “It is not OK that someone treated you this way.” It may be the first time they hear: “It is not your fault.” Or that: “You are valuable and important.”
A couple of years ago my wife and I were in Vietnam completing the adoption of our youngest daughter. We were there for three weeks. Our daughter was almost four at the time. Because of the losses she had experienced, she wasn’t taking any chances anymore of being abandoned or left behind.