Sunday, October 4, 2015

12 Tips When Working With A Survivor by Jennifer Unangst

I am not a doctor or a counselor but from my own experience as a trauma survivor and through research and hands on mentorship, I believe these 12 simple tips can aid in the healing process of a survivor. Often times, we can re-victimize or trigger an already broken spirit by our words or actions. My hope is that these simple steps can help us, help them. ---Jennifer Unangst

  1. Don’t say “I understand” to a survivor because you probably don’t.
  2. Don’t give unsolicited advice: Instead, review options with the survivor and then support her decisions. Allow her to take control over their own life, even if you believe you would do something differently or if you believe she may regret her decision.
  3. Don’t gasp or grimace when hearing a traumatic story (and you will). Be prepared to hear possible stories of child rape, torture or even murder.
  4. Don’t over talk a survivor. Its important to let her speak and get her feelings out without us trying to have an answer for everything. She may for the first time in a long time have her voice back, let her use it.
  5. Don’t tell her not to get a tattoo or piercing or cover them up. This tells the survivor she should change and gives her the message you don’t accept her as she is. Tell them their blue hair and black eyeliner is cool! We love with no conditions.
  6. Don’t put down a survivors pimp. Often times there is a trauma bond that we don't understand. She may love her pimp. She will learn over time she was actually victimized by him. This must be a gentle slow process and can be very painful.
  7. DO NOT ask the survivor about her story. Trust me, she will tell you but only what she feels comfortable telling. Don’t ask question like, “why didn't you run? Just don't ask. It’s important to focus on the future. What are her dreams and aspirations?
  8. Try not to call nicknames. Refrain from words like sweetie or honey that may have been used by johns, pimps and abusers and could trigger her. Always helps to ask first.
  9. Don’t grab a survivor’s hand or touch her without permission. Also, you don’t have to lay hands on her to pray for her. Trust me, that’s very uncomfortable the first few times. You’ll get to know who likes hugs and touch and who doesn't. It's important to ask.
  10. Don't press the survivor to report her trafficker to the police. Don't insist that she talk to someone about it. Doing nothing is a valid option and needs to be supported.
  11. Don't be afraid to say no! Its important to instill healthy boundaries. Just because she's a survivor doesn't mean you give her everything and say yes to anything she asks for. It’s a hard thing to do but will teach healthy relationships and instill trust.
  12. Don't treat her like a victim. The minute she leaves or is relocated from her pimp she is no longer a victim but a survivor. Try to focus on her future. Let her counselors deal with the past.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Local Event: ShoeLaPalooza to Support Refuge For Women

Come and shop from our huge selection of New and Gently Used Women’s shoes for all your casual, work and party needs. Accessories and a nice selection of coats and work clothing will also be available. Cash and check only. All proceeds to help Refuge for Women open an after care home for sexually exploited and trafficked women.

Saturday, October 10th

Early Bird Sale
Admission $5
12 – 1 pm

General Sale
$1 admission
1 – 3 pm

Questions can be directed to

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Local Event: Ink 180 Tattoo Removal Demonstration

Join us as we hear from Chris Baker of INK 180.

INK 180 provides free tattoo cover-ups or removals for victims of human trafficking or tattoos left from a former life in a gang. Chris transforms the painful reminders of the destructive situations into beautiful art and gives them a fresh start without that painful reminder. Chris will share with us the work of Ink 180 and will demonstrate a tattoo removal LIVE for us that night.

Chris provides his time, supplies, artwork, entirely free of charge to the victims. He is currently linked up with virtually every police depart in Northern Illinois and receives referrals from the FBI and Homeland Security. His work has been featured in numerous articles, documentaries, and was highlighted in the U.S. State Department’s 2013 Trafficking in Human Person’s Report.

Event Cost is $5. All proceeds benefit Ink 180.

Register here:

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Barbara's Story - A Poem

I was inspired to write this poem after hearing Barbara Amaya speak and then later attending a discussion of her book Nobody's Girl.  Her story reflects the tragedy of a typical case of child sex trafficking.  Sold from one trafficker to the next, she was trafficked at the young age of just 12 years old.  Barbara's story was one that was hard to hear and even harder to read.  But her story didn’t end there. She is no longer a victim, but a victor!  She is more than a survivor.  She is an overcomer.  Her story is ultimately one of hope, courage and strength.

Visit Barbara's website Here
Purchase Nobody's Girl Here

Barbara's Story
Me and my daddy
At home all alone
But he starts to touch me
And he starts to moan
I tried to tell mom
But she refused to believe
So I made up my mind
That I had to leave 

A lady befriends me
One day at the park
I decide to go with her
Because it’s getting dark
But her caring for me
Was not what it seems
And soon I am sold
To a man on the streets
Wear this, eat that
Bring this amount home
I don’t get to make choices
All on my own 

Reading a book
that gets ripped from my hands
“How dare you take time
away from your man?” 

I just want to read,
I want to learn more
“Selling yourself
is all your good for.” 

Survive without him?
I’m not sure I could
Surely he’s right
When he says I’m no good 

No one will want me
And no one will care
It was torture at home
So I can’t go back there 

I turn to drugs to numb all the pain
How has my life become such a mess?
I soon meet a nurse
Who sees I need rest. 

She offers me hope
And I find a way out
Of a life that a child
Should know nothing about 

Now I’m stepping up
And using my voice
I want to tell others
That there is a choice 

We must educate
And make better laws
So no other child
Falls prey to it’s claws 

The monster called Trafficking
Must be brought down.
We must raise awareness
And smash the pimps crown 

So that’s what I’m doing
I’m using my voice
I’m compelled to others
That there is a choice.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Drops of Dew

After an evening of outreach, our group began talking about how we sometimes get discouraged because we want so much for these precious women to be freed from the life they are living. I began to picture these women as beautiful flowers and the words of love we speak to them as drops of dew on their petals.  I pictured our words as a drop of refreshment into their dry world.  It refreshes them at the time and place they are right at that moment.   

Perhaps our words are all they can “drink in” at the moment.  Any more would drown them. 
We have to trust that God is placing other drops of dew on their petals and that in His perfect time, when they are ready, he will pour out his flood of love to them.  Love that is perfectly satisfying, perfectly quenching, life giving.
Drops of Dew
I stand wilted in the hot sun
My petals dry and parched
A moment of relief
A drop of dew
Moist, Refreshing. 
but does not penetrate
It clings and lingers,
A glimmer of hope
Drops of dew collect on my petals. 
They pool together
They form a stream
that runs down my stem.
The water penetrates
and sinks deep into my roots. 
Bringing refreshment
Hope rises up
Now comes the rain 
perfectly quenching,
perfectly satisfying
I am beautiful again

Sunday, May 17, 2015

The End Times for Human Trafficking

Our message at church recently was about Apocalyptic Compassion.  Our pastor talked about our fascination with post apocalyptic movies.  These movies all have the same dark plot where the End Times have come.  The world as we know it has been destroyed and is marked by violence and chaos.  In these movies, the people have learned to just live in the circumstances of their situation.  They have learned to accept that this is the way things are and do nothing to change it.

Sometimes I think we have this attitude toward the issue of Human Trafficking.  The problem is so bad what difference can we possibly make?  We think this issue to too big and runs too deep. We say, well it's not affecting me personally.  We think that there will always be a demand for sex, and a hunger for power and money.  How could possibly eliminate this issue?

But we need to change our mindset from "I can't" to "How Can I?"
If we can't envision the world without Human Trafficking then how can we ever expect it?

If we fall victim to a defeatist attitude we will do nothing. But if we expect that God will do something, then our perspective and actions will be different. We will be motivated to be active in the great work that God is accomplishing.

We are called to reach out to the lost, the hurting and the broken.  We are called to have compassion for them.

We can learn from Mary's example in John 12 where she uses an expensive perfume to anoint Jesus.   The story takes place 1 week before Jesus would die on the cross.  But Mary, knowing the End was near for Jesus did not despair and give up.  She chooses to use this time to pour out her heart to bless Jesus. She demonstrated apocalyptic compassion.

Isaiah 58:10 tells us that if we spend ourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then our light will rise in the darkness, and our night will become like the noonday.

Part of the reason these movies are so popular is that there is always a heroic restoration.  There is someone or some group who steps in to save the day.  To make things right.  To offer a new beginning.

We need to declare that this is the End Times for Human Trafficking! 

The world tells the victims "You don't matter." 

We can show them that they do!

We can reveal God's power to a hurting world. 

We can give them A New Beginning

Saturday, May 2, 2015

We Stand Together

Remember the children's game Red Rover?  There are two teams and each team links hands with their teammates. The two teams would stand facing one another and one team would call out,

"Red Rover, Red Rover, send Billy over"

If your name was the one called, your mission was to run at full speed and attempt to break through the human chain that opposed you.  If the chain was strong enough you would not be able to break through. 

Imagine what the game would be like if everyone lined up and stood next to each other, but did not link arms.  Each person just stood with their arms down to their side, doing their own thing.  Maybe the person chosen to run is bigger that you and you're afraid of getting hurt.  Perhaps you don't like the teammate next to you and don't want to hold their hand.  Maybe you've never won at this game before so why should now be any different?  How easy would it be for the other team to break through?

Obviously, this scenario wouldn't work.  The object of the game is to link arms, making you stronger, and making it as difficult as possible for someone to get through.   

This simple children's game is a great illustration of what needs to happen in the fight against human trafficking. I picture each person as an organization with their arms linked to another.  Each one with a different name; churches, non-profits, government agencies, businesses, law makers, after care programs, individuals - all standing together, arms linked in a united front saying NO! 

"We stand together and Pimps and Traffickers are no longer getting through!"

Ecclesiastes 4:12 New Living Translation (NLT) 
A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken. 

I love the NLT version of Ecclesiastes 4:12 because it says we can conquer.  It doesn't matter if the person coming towards us is bigger than us or if the traffickers have been the ones winning at this game for far too long.  We can create partnerships and work together and we can conquer!

We are actually beginning to see collaboration in the Chicago area.  Many organizations and churches are sharing resources and volunteers. It's a beautiful thing to see. 

No one person, organization or church can do it all.  We do what we can with how God has equipped us.  When we link arms and stand together, we create a barrier against the evil of human trafficking and together we can create change.