Healing and Growing at The Lighthouse
As of October 2017, our newest program, The Lighthouse transitional housing program for survivors of sex trafficking, has been operating for a full year! In honor of the program’s first anniversary, we wanted to share an update on our year and on some of the young women in the program. Due to the sensitive nature of the background of Lighthouse residents, where residents are mentioned below, their names have been changed for privacy.
In the program’s first year, eight young women moved into The Lighthouse, though some of them were unable to stay due to extenuating circumstances. Our very first resident, Elle, has been in the program for the full 11 months. For Elle, as with the other residents, getting out of “the life” of sex trafficking is just the first step in a long process of healing and growing. “These young women have spent so much time being told what to do and how to feel, that they struggle having healthy, safe, fulfilling relationships with others,” Lighthouse staff member Sarah explains. “My main goal is working with our survivors to figure out who they are and what they want in life.”
For Elle, the housing stability, coupled with love and guidance from staff, has provided the foundation she’s needed to make great progress. When she moved in, she had just earned her high school diploma and she was ready for more. She worked over the holidays and earlier this year began a medical assistant certificate program. She was diligent in her studies, although there were challenging moments.
“Although the residents are excited to be taking the next step in their educational pursuits, thoughts about school are often filled with anxiety,” Lighthouse Program Supervisor Polly explains. “Our young women worry that they have missed so much school they won’t be able to keep up, or that they won’t know what to say if a classmate asks them about themselves.” With lots of support, patience, and love from staff, Elle graduated from her certificate program in June and finished her four-week internship in July. And, we are thrilled to announce that she started community college this fall!
As important as her education is to her, Elle also appreciates the home environment at The Lighthouse. Some of her favorite things include playing with water balloons in the backyard with other residents, sitting at the table to do her homework, and eating meals together.
The same is true for Anna, who has been in The Lighthouse program for almost 10 months. “Living at The Lighthouse has opened up a lot of positive relationships for me,” Anna says. “I have been able to build friendships there and celebrate achievements with my peers like seeing them graduate from high school. The Lighthouse is a place where I can heal and grow… where I know I can build safe relationships and feel at home.” Like Elle, Anna is making great progress on her educational goals. She is working towards a degree in law enforcement at Cypress College while working two part-time jobs.
As our residents are building great relationships and attaining educational success, they continue to work to overcome the trauma in their past. “Sometimes some of the young women miss the security and protection of having a trafficker to take care of them,” Sarah explains. “Some of the girls put their self-worth in sexual attention and struggle feeling accepted, so we work on separating the two. Some were exposed to drugs and alcohol in “the life” and they miss the numbing effects of that, especially when the stresses of life are weighing on them.”
Our residents continue to build coping skills and learn healthy ways of dealing with stress. They are sorting through their pasts and learning about themselves and their insecurities. With help and support from the Lighthouse, our hope is for these young women is to heal and grow, to set goals, to work, and ultimately to experience true happiness.