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Supporting Survivors, Pandemic or Not

Challenges abound when recovering from the life of trafficking and exploitation: in addition to affording food, shelter, and care for their children, survivors have to unlearn how they’ve been conditioned to act around people in order to survive and reintegrate into more conventional environments.

First, 5 things to consider:

  1. The average number of times a person will return to the life of human trafficking is 7  

  2. Many individuals leaving the life have a criminal history due to their exploitation making it hard to get a job, which is why they often return, see above

  3. Avoiding eye contact is a learned survival skill while under the control of a pimp

  4. Re-learning life skills like making eyre contact, developing trust, and managing conflict are key to sustained reintegration

  5. Our WAY2WORK program offers professional and personal development workshops to support them on the path forward

Victims of sex trafficking and exploitation are trained to not make eye contact-- for a very specific reason called reckless eyeballing. If a victim, as a part of a stable (those under one pimp), accidentally or otherwise made eye contact with another pimp they were now "choosing up" and was an indicator and challenge to change pimps. Which, in dealing with a systematic business aimed to exploit and control humans, meant things were probably not going to end well.

So imagine a survivor, fresh out of the control of a pimp, often left with a criminal history due to the demands of a pimp or trafficker or no traditional work experience, trying to figure out housing, food, employment, how to parent their children, navigating an entirely new world where it’s not just okay to make eye contact, but it’s a vital part of success.

This is just one facet of the myriad of challenges survivors encounter. At i-5, we focus our efforts on the specific communication skills they will need not just for job interviews, but for effectively engaging with the world at large, the kinds of skills ALL people need. We focus on the skills to build confidence from the inside out so that survivors feel empowered with practical tools to navigate a difficult world. 

There are some great resources out there to help survivors get the job. Way2Work is designed to help them keep the job.

Our first iteration of this program is called the Success Series. These stand-alone workshops could be taken in any order and offered with full scholarships with support from donors and sponsors. We focus on the skills needed to build confidence from the inside out so that participants leave equipped with practical tools to navigate a difficult world.

Here is what participants get in our Success Series:

  1. Communicate for Success

  2. Present for Success

  3. Leadership and Emotional Intelligence

  4. Managing Stress

  5. Business Etiquette 101 and Job Interview Practice

Just recently we added the Dale Carnegie Course. This is an 8-week program that focuses on presentation skills, vision planning, improving memory, conversation tools, conflict & stress management, and leadership skills. Participants work with the same group and the same trainer for the entire series. We were in week 2 of our second cohort when COVID19 required that we halt the program. We quickly adapted the workshops to be facilitated online, and with a donor’s generosity, we were able to build a laptop lending library so those in need could join from home.

Graduates of the program have reported that they can finally communicate about their traumatic experience in a confident and productive manner for the first time, one participant found the courage to start her own business, one simply declared that she finally felt important and valued. It’s a transformational opportunity to provide tangible skills that they can use right away.

As of now, COVID19 is unrelenting, and after consulting with a team of survivor leaders we learned what is really needed at the moment is shorter sessions with immediate skills to cope with the stress of the lockdown. To answer this need, we are developing 60-90 minute online workshops to address healing modalities and stress management skills.

We know that life after exploitation and the trauma that comes with can be overwhelming and complicated. We remain committed to focusing on what is truly of value by offering skills that will pay off not just in a job interview, but their daily interactions with family and community (at a safe social distance). 

If you would like to be a part of this practical solution, you can sponsor a workshop here or contact us:

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