Working together to bring hope

The movement to bring hope to victims of sex trafficking is gaining momentum. It takes many individuals, organizations and agencies working together to make a difference in just one survivor’s life. That’s why Mirror Ministries is honored to partner with other social service agencies to help keep victims of trafficking from falling through the cracks.

A local social service agency, which had long been in need of services for sex trafficking victims, was delighted to hear about Mirror Ministries. They found our website and called the hotline to learn more. When they heard about the therapeutic services we provide, they knew it was a perfect fit. Now we are all partnering to keep Ruby* from falling through the cracks.

Ruby’s parents could tell that something horrible was happening to their daughter but were in the dark about what was causing it. Ruby had become distant. She lost interest in her sports and hobbies. She dropped long-standing friendships and started hanging out exclusively with one new, older friend. She appeared with new, expensive clothes and jewelry and manicures that neither her own money nor her parents’ could have paid for. Working blind, Ruby’s parents were at a loss as to how to intervene and help her. A referral brought them to the partner agency for family counseling and services. That is where the reality came to light.

Ruby was being groomed and coerced by a trafficker.

When she first came to the Mirror Ministries Outreach Center, Ruby hardly spoke at all. Yet her advocate stayed patiently by her side, encouraging her and building trust. As she was painting during Art Therapy, something connected. Ruby began to open up. She started sharing her stories. We had a beautiful moment of breakthrough as we saw the art create a venue to her path of healing.

A multitude of individuals and agencies worked together to reach out to Ruby, interrupt the grooming process, and bring her to a place of healing before more damage could be inflicted.

Ruby’s parents, who knew their daughter well enough to recognize the changes in her and were determined to find a way to help her. The people who referred them to the partner agency for counseling, and that agency along with its many staff members who helped and continue to help in Ruby’s case. The volunteers who set up and run Mirror Ministries’s website and who staff the hotline. Our advocates, interns, and Executive Director who worked to connect Ruby with our services and to build trust. The organizations that provide grants to pay their salaries. The volunteer who teaches the Art Therapy class. The many volunteers who have helped to remodel, decorate, and maintain our Outreach Center. The donors who supplied the materials for the intake process and the art class.

The list goes on and on. It takes each one of us doing our part to help turn a story like Ruby’s from one of despair to one of hope.

This movement of bringing hope to the most vulnerable is possible because so many answered the call of “Who will?” with a resounding, “I will!”

Learn more about our vision of bringing hope and reflecting grace at our breakfast this month:

 

*Name has been changed and some details have been obscured to protect our client’s identity.

Sex trafficking lures – do your children know the signs?

We can train kids like these to keep themselves safe by recognizing the warning signs of trafficking

Blanca is a dedicated mother of three. When her pre-teen and two young teens starting making some new friends – usually a process that would delight a mother – Blanca became concerned. She heard stories of parties these friends had been to. Parties where sketchy things were happening and Blanca didn’t know for sure what these friends were up to. What she did know for sure was that warning signs were flaring.

Blanca reached out to Mirror Ministries, where an advocate spoke with her to find out the whole story. After having her concerns brushed off by others, Blanca finally felt like someone was taking her seriously and was going to be with her every step of the way while she guided her children. Our Mirror Ministries advocate also spoke with all three children to let them know the red flags to recognize a pimp and how easily kids can be swept up into sex trafficking. Blanca was very grateful, and she is hopeful that the message got through to her children and it will help keep them safe.

Would you recognize the signs of sex trafficking and grooming? They are often subtle.

A pimp can be a man or a woman. Young or old. Most pimps use manipulation to lure in potential victims. Others may use a go-between or two (known as spotters and groomers) to identify and manipulate potential victims before turning them over to the pimp.

What will each of these have in common? They will appear as a friend (or boyfriend or girlfriend). They might be the only person who really listens to a child. But that’s only because they are listening for the child’s vulnerabilities.

They will find out the child’s dreams and ambitions or their frustrations and pains. Then they will offer a way out of the pain of their lives, or a way to reach their dreams, or both.

This might look like playing lots of video games with a young teen boy, or taking a young girl shopping. It very often involves expensive presents, and it frequently involves small amounts of drugs to get the child hooked. Then it will involve an incentive to make money, and a suggestion of a “great way” to make lots of fast money.

Here are some warning signs to watch for:

SPEECH/BEHAVIOR

  • Secretive about who they are talking to or meeting
  • Sexual knowledge beyond what is age-appropriate
  • Dramatic personality changes
  • Preference for gang colors, doodles of gang symbols, etc.

BELONGINGS

  • Excess amounts of cash
  • New, expensive possessions (new clothes, shoes, phones, accessories, manicures, etc.)
  • Hotel key cards
  • Sex toys, sex items, provocative clothing
  • Multiple phones

PEER GROUP

  • Sudden presence of an older boyfriend or girlfriend
  • Isolated from friends and family
  • Skipping classes or youth group
  • Sexually acting out
  • Chronically truant, runaway, or gang involved

IN AN EMERGENCY, CALL 911

If you suspect your child or a child you know is being trafficked, call our hotline at 509-212-9995.

Download a PDF of these warning signs by clicking on the image above

Our advocates are available to speak at your youth group, school, club, or just a get-together of friends and family to train children on signs to watch for and how to avoid being tricked and trapped. We can also train teachers, youth and children’s ministry workers, club leaders, and parents to recognize and respond to the signs of sex trafficking. Call or email our office today to schedule your training: 509-783-5730 or info@mirror-ministries.org.

What if that was me?

By Murphy, Sex Trafficking Advocate

From 1776 to the present day, July 4th has been celebrated as the birth of American independence, with festivities ranging from fireworks, parades and concerts to more casual family gatherings and barbecues.

We love being part of such a warm and welcoming community. But sometimes, for some people, the very moment they need support is when they discover how alone they are. This year the 4th of July brought a local family and their daughter and grand-daughter much despair and less faith in their community.

We live by the simple, golden rule: What if that was me? How would I like for others to treat me at a restaurant? A hospital? Or even as that straggler on the streets?

While most of us were celebrating with barbecues and fireworks, a local father fought for his daughter who had been trafficked and over-dosed. The one call she was able to make before passing out was to her dad. Her family broke down barriers to find her the help and services she needed. But multiple times in the same evening, they were dismissed because she was ‘just a junkie’ or a ‘prostitute.’

They brought her to the hospital and – praise God! – her life was spared.

The father reached out to some agencies, who, in turn, reached out to Mirror Ministries. I was able to meet the family: the dad, the mom, the victim, and her daughter. The experience reinforced the truth that it absolutely does not matter what degrees a person may hold, it does not matter who the individual may know, or even what social class they may be from… what does matter is the time and the compassion one has in their heart. That compassion can prompt someone to step away from their own family and friends in order to bring comfort and reassurance to another family who are afraid they just may lose their child.

A few days after the 4th, I had this message from the victim’s mother: “She would love to see you again. She remembers you being the only compassionate and loving person through this entire ordeal.”

This is what Mirror Ministries is all about. Reflecting the grace of God to victims and survivors of sex trafficking. God put that compassion in our hearts, and He works in us to live by the golden rule. We see ourselves reflected in the face of every victim, survivor, and family member. We see God’s image. And we ask, what if that was me?

From fairytale to nightmare to hope

By Murphy, Human Trafficking Advocate

Tori Michelle* is a resilient lady, who once had everything she could possibly want: a great job, a loving family and good kids. One day it all came to an end. She was served with divorce papers from her husband. She felt like her life was over.

After the divorce, the kids were able to live with her and she continued working at her great job, but Tori Michele was sure she would never meet anyone as wonderful as her ex-husband. A year or so later, she met a man who swept her off her feet. She was in love all over again! He did everything just right. You would have thought her life was a fairytale.

But her dream come true quickly turned into a nightmare. Shortly after sweeping her off her feet, the boyfriend introduced Tori to the world of Meth. The drugs quickly sucked her into an addiction. She was fired from her wonderful job. With money tight, her boyfriend encouraged her that things will work out and they would be okay. But bills started piling up. Electricity, utilities, and rent were all due. Not to worry, Tori Michelle’s wonderful boyfriend had a plan. He asked her to perform some sexual acts for some of his friends. The bills would be no problem.

Tori Michelle immediately refused. Her boyfriend gave her some more meth, and she was soon in a more agreeable state. Tori Michelle was sexually exploited as a victim of human trafficking by this “boyfriend” for many years. At 51 years old, she has been in “the Life” off and on, she has fallen victim to the world of drugs in order to numb the pain from all the trauma.

After all this, Tori Michelle has the strength to hope for a new life. She has taken many countless steps before and in the past 8 months to get a grasp on life without drugs. Through many ups and downs, this resilient lady has finally gotten sick and tired of being sick and tired! She is ready to start her life again.

At Mirror Ministries, we have helped Tori Michelle plan and move to an excellent long-term facility. Not only will they be able to work on the top layer of issues such as drug addiction, but they will also be able to work on the hidden trauma that has been within her for many years!

We ask for continued support and prayers as Tori Michelle battles the storms that will come her way as she wages the decisive battle against drug addiction and fights for her own healing over the next few months. It has taken remarkable strength to endure the reverses life has thrown her and to keep coming back with hope.

*Name and photo have been changed to protect our clients

You never gave up on me

By Sharaya, Human Trafficking Advocate

Patience and endurance are important strengths to acquire when working with sex trafficking victims. It often takes time to build a healthy relationship with them and it takes patience to help them get back up when they stumble time and time again.

Lux* is a client I have worked with for several years, watching her stumble repeatedly in her young life. Tri-Cities was not a healthy or safe place for her to live anymore, so we ended up moving her to a safe restoration home in a larger city where she could obtain more housing services. She had been addicted to drugs for a very long time and needed to be in a different city.

After Lux was moved and in a safe spot, she would ask me to come and visit because I was her only support. Every visit I have with her, she thanks me for pulling her off the street and not giving up on her when everyone else did. She calls to ask for advice in everything and will tell all her friends, “Sharaya saved my life.”

It has not been an easy few years, but God is good! Lux ended up being baptized and loves God with all her heart. She said just the other day that she wished she would have listened to my advice years ago because it would have saved her from a lot of heartache. But she thanks God that He put me in her life and that I never gave up on her.

*Name and photo have been changed to protect our clients

Mirror Ministries crowd funding campaign with WeRaise

Join Mirror Ministries in raising $10,000 to help local victims of sex trafficking

Mirror Ministries recently launched a crowd funding campaign on WeRaise to raise at least $10,000 that will go toward supporting a second advocate and our survivor services programs where we directly help local victims of sex trafficking in Tri-Cities, Washington.

Help us help even more victims of sex trafficking by donating to our campaign at https://weraise.wheatridge.org/en/projects/37489-Reflecting-God-s-grace-to–Victims-and-Survivors-of-Sex-Trafficking. Our deadline for raising funds is Aug. 31, 2017.

 

Reflecting God’s Grace to Victims and Survivors of Sex Trafficking from Mirror Ministries on Vimeo.

The number of human trafficking survivors we continue to help has risen dramatically in the past year, which made hiring a second advocate crucial this year. On average, we help an average of 25 clients per week and have an extended list of more than 80 clients that we reach out to who may not be quite ready for our services.

We are incredibly grateful for the generous community members who have continued to support us from our early beginnings to now, and we kindly thank our generous contributors who have donated to our campaign so far. Please help us help even more victims right here in the Tri-Cities!

God bless!

Tri-City Ninja Warrior

Have you ever wanted to try out for American Ninja Warrior? Or maybe just see how well you’d hold up in a similar obstacle course? Now you have a chance to try it out right here in your hometown!

Team Integrity Training is hosting a series of Ninja Challenges all summer long, with proceeds from entrance fees benefiting Mirror Ministries! It’s like American Ninja Warrior, Tri-City-style!

Compete solo or in teams of 5, as many times as you want over the summer (entrance fee required for each challenge). Fastest solo competitor will receive a $250 grand prize, while the overall team champions will receive $2000 plus gear from Team Integrity’s sponsors! The group winner at each event will also receive gear as prizes.

Low element events will include: 

ROPE LADDER CRAWL- Testing core strength and balance. 

LOW COURSE RELAY- Testing Balance, Teamwork, Coordination. 

THE WALL- Testing Strength and teamwork.

OBSTACLE RELAY- Testing Strength and endurance.

High Element events will include:

VERTICAL JUNKYARD- Will test coordination, balance, strength and teamwork 

CATWALK- Will test nerve and balance

BURMA BRIDGE- Will test Balance 

ROPE CLIMB- Will test strength (1 will compete)

First Race day is June 10th from 9 to 6 pm. Learn more and register at Team Integrity Training Ninja Challenge and invite your friends with the Facebook event page!

Sexual Assault Awareness Month

We live in a culture that justifies sexual violence against women and children by blaming the choices they have made, whether or not those choices are perceived as related to the exploitation or abuse. It is in this culture that a commercially sexually exploited child can be viewed as a “teen prostitute” who actively chose to be in “the life.”

April is Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month, and it’s important to remember that sexual exploitation is a form of sexual assault. It’s on us to provide better options for vulnerable women and youth. It’s on us to change perceptions. It’s on us to prevent sexual assault in all its forms and to support survivors. Spread the word.