I recently attended the 4th Annual NE Ohio Human Trafficking Symposium organized by the Renee Jones Empowerment Center and hosted on the campus of Notre Dame College here in the Cleveland area. The day was completely full with a variety of informative topics addressing areas in relationship to trafficking & survivor stories, therapeutic services, law enforcement, outreach, and housing. I wanted to share some of the resources, information, energy, efforts, and examples of hope, recovery, and resilience that filled the room throughout the day, as well as the work being done locally and nationally to bring awareness and help to this issue.
Cleveland’s Renee Jones Empowerment Center
The Renee Jones Empowerment Center is the only NE Ohio agency “committed to providing life coaching and aftercare services to those with the courage to break the human trafficking system…Human Trafficking is code for slavery — involuntary servitude, debt bondage, or peonage.” Humantrafficking.org is a comprehensive international web resource full of publications, updates, research, and reports to learn more about the advocacy efforts happening around the world.
During the Symposium’s Treatment & Clinical Services track information was presented about models, strategies, and approaches being used with at-risk youth for prevention & recovery that is grounded in trauma informed theory and attachment treatment. Some of treatment considerations discussed were:
- Implementing a Positive Peer Culture (PPC) within Group Based Work:
PPC “is a peer-helping model designed to improve social competence and cultivate strengths in troubled and troubling youth. “Care and concern” for others (or “social interest”) is the defining element of PPC. Rather than demanding obedience to authority or peers, PPC demands responsibility, empowering youth to discover their greatness. Caring is made fashionable and any hurting behavior totally unacceptable. PPC assumes that as group members learn to trust, respect, and take responsibility for the actions of others, norms can be established. These norms not only extinguish antisocial conduct, but more importantly reinforce pro-social attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors. Positive values and behavioral change are achieved through the peer-helping process. Helping others increases self-worth. As one becomes more committed to caring for others, s/he abandons hurtful behaviors.”
More information about this model can be read here: The Evidence Base for Positive Peer Culture [PDF].
- The Sanctuary Model® for Organizations and Programs working with Survivors:
The Sanctuary Model is an evidence-supported template for system change based on the active creation and maintenance of a nonviolent, democratic community in which staff and clients are empowered as key decision-makers to build a socially responsive, emotionally intelligent and just community that is able to transform internal and external conflict, and that fosters growth and change.
More information about this model can be read here: Trauma-Informed Means Changing Organizational Culture
- Interventions valuable to treatment are client centered, empower survivors with a source of control about their thoughts, feelings, & behavior, as well as utilize structured sensory interventions & experiences that are soothing, repetitive, and build resiliency. (This includes art therapy!)
In my art therapy work at the Renee Jones Empowerment Center throughout this year as part of Ursuline ArtSpace’s Outreach Program, I try to keep the following themes in mind when planning and implementing art interventions for group work:
Jeanne Allert, Founder & Executive Director of The Samaritan Women in Baltimore Maryland also reinforced the power of play as a liberating & therapeutically essential part to the activities and structure of her restorative program for survivors of trauma and trafficking. Also check out the TSW website for their lists of must see films and books to read to learn more about sex trade, human trafficking, or prostitution.
For me, the most emotionally powerful part of the Symposium’s day was the program’s Keynote Speaker, Dr. Elaine Richardson who performed a one-woman show inspired by her book PHD to Ph.D. It included an amazing performance of music and storytelling about Dr. Richardson’s experience & recovery from addiction and her life in prostitution.
Learn more about Dr. Richardson’s work and story here:
Thank you to the Renee Jones Empowerment Center for bringing us all together to bring awareness, help, and hope to this important issue.
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