Our July In the Know is from Amanda Joy who gives her personal account of life after a restoration home!
I entered a restoration home for victims of human trafficking and sexual exploitation in September 2014. I was a mess, and even though I fought it, I knew I needed help.
After 11 months in a program that was supervised 24/7, where I was surrounded by other girls “like me” and had the support of staff, a counselor, and a case manager, I graduated the program and moved to a new city where I literally knew one person. And though I thought I was healed enough to handle what came up, the truth was that I was/am far from being healed and capable of handling life on my own. And I dare to say anyone reading this is far from it too.
The fact is, we are not meant to do life on our own. And, unfortunately, I thought, because of my history, that I was different, that “it didn't kill me before … I survived, and I can survive now” would be enough to get me through whatever bumps came up after I left my program.
The truth is that after 11 months of support, I wasn’t prepared for life outside the security of a program. Granted, before I left, I had found a counselor in the town I was moving to; I knew a church I would attend; and I had secured a place to live. By outside accounts I was ready.
But in the nine months since leaving my program, I have learned I was no way near ready to conquer the world, much less how to transition back into life.
Because of my history and past, I don’t have the support of biological family. Because of my constant moving and running, I have friends, but they’re scattered from Oregon to Texas and everywhere in between.
If I could tell a survivor getting ready to exit a program anything, the most important key to success isn't a good job; it isn't a counselor; it isn't a safe place to live … which, don't get me wrong, those are all very important.
But more important than all of that is finding and cultivating a community that can come around you and help you … people who know your past and can help you make a plan for the future.
No matter if you struggled with a drug addiction, sex addiction, eating disorder or any other hang up from your past, you need people to help keep you accountable once you’re on your own again.
And to those reading this who want to be a mentor, a friend, a support to someone healing from trafficking, my biggest advice would be to be there without judgment and without condemnation.
It’s been nine months since I left my program, and I’m sure there are days that someone could look at me and the mistakes I've made and think, “Did you learn anything while you were there?" The truth is yes, yes I did, but it didn't take 11 months to mess me up, and its going to take more than 11 months for me to be healed.
I don't have a lot of experience; I am not very educated; I can’t sit here and tell you statistics of how many homes there are for survivors, I can tell you there are not nearly enough. I can't tell you how many enter each day/month/year. But I do know that only one percent of those rescued stay out of the life. That means even those who get rescued -- get placed in a home -- are still susceptible to going back to the life they were rescued from. I think a big key in making that number go up is aftercare. Yes, safe homes for a girl to heal and get away from her situation are important, but the truth is you can't live there forever … you can'tbe sheltered from life. You have to learn how to go out and make better choices; you have to learn you’re worth more than what you've been told you’re worth; and you have to transition from victim in need of help to survivor capable of helping others. The only way to do that is to have a community around you to walk with you.
I was very fortunate, and, after six months of falling on my face and making a lot of mistakes, I walked into a church that has welcomed me with open arms, has come around me giving me support, encouragement and accountability. Had I not found that, I don't know I would have been successful at living well post-program. This community I’ve found meets with me just about every week. There are four that are close in my community that know ‘the deep dark secrets of my heart and head,’ but we don't sit around a table talking about how bad things are, we talk about hope, the future, plans and then, we take action.
When I first started meeting with them, one of the women would ask me what my “hope level” was on a scale of 1-10. I rolled my eyes thinking how on earth could I have hope that things would ever get better and also thinking the whole scale thing was cheesy, but I said it was maybe a 2. I was not very optimistic that life could be good. But now, a few short months later of having that support -- people I can call or email night or day and who aren't just saying they are there, but are really there -- I told them last week my level of hope is a 9.
That’s how much community and aftercare can change someone's life.