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It takes a woman an average of seven attempts before she can escape the life. She needs to be ready to leave. The window in which a woman is ready to leave is small and needs to be taken advantage of right away. There need to be recovery services ready for her. But once she does, she has the long road to recovery. Recovery from prostitution is often misunderstood because people think that once the women is out of the life, they are free. The end of the life is just the start of a different journey, one of healing.
Recovery doesn’t happen like in the movies. In the movie’s girls are rescued and then they go live with the handsome man that saved her. She is whisked away into Happily-Ever-After. I have always wondered what the movie version girl does with her trauma? I wonder if she had a high ACEs score and how she processes her childhood trauma in her new-found love interest? I wonder if poverty, trauma bonding or addiction were a part of her story? If they were how is she going to deal with those things?
I also wonder why the man always needs to be the hero of the story? As if the woman can’t have the strength without this machismo type of man-rescuer. Real men don’t buy sex. Real men also show women respect and dignity. They don’t treat them like pieces of meat or sexual objects. Real men don’t need to break down doors to rescue, they can simply show kindness and love to the women in their life. But I digress.
There are a lot of factors that go into recovery and we will cover some, not all of them. But what is needed first is courage. The women who go through this recovery have more courage than we can imagine. To be willing to dive deep into their life and deal with all the pain and trauma is incredible. Much of what they have to deal with is raw, unfiltered emotions that come from new realizations of abuse and mistreatment. The women I know that are walking through recovery are amazing. They inspire me to deal with shit in my life that is far less tragic. These women have more courage than I do and it is a great characteristic they all share.
One of the first components of recovery is a safe environment. This could mean a number of things, but a home is a great start. They need a place where they are not at risk of getting kicked out or paying the rent. If they can focus on their recovery and not earning money to pay rent, they are more likely to recover wholly. It is like putting on the air mask before helping others. Having a safe place allows more intense focus. Safety isn’t limited to a home. They also need safe places to share their stories, places where judgement is overcome by love and where shame disappears in acceptance, places to explore who they are and what life will look like. Safety is also needed. But with safety our brains can settle down and do the work needed to really change.
On the streets and in the hotel rooms there is not much stability. Stability is non-existent, and yet it is a major factor for healing from the life. Giving her the time and resources gives she needs to be able to heal. Many victims of sexual exploitation have never had the luxury of a stable life. Financial stability allows her to know that she doesn’t have to turn a trick for basic necessities. Locational stability allows her to find the services that she needs to stay out of the life. Relational stability is a key component that allows her to develop relationship that she will need to live a healthy life. When a woman coming out of the life is stable there is less stress and she is better able to weigh your options and think clearly. Stability really does create the space needing for recovery.
Adversity and abuse can do lasting brain damage. In order to heal the brain, she will need safety and time to do the work. She will need to relearn what normal behaviors are. When the time comes to start dealing with adverse effects from childhood abuse and poverty there is a lot to process. Mental health and trauma counseling will be helpful. Once you add sexual exploitation and prostitution there are added layers of work that need to be done to keep these women out of the life. Mental health does not resolve quickly, but the more time they are able to put into this initially the better. The good news about the brain is that given beneficial environments the brain will heal. We need to help create these environments.
Unfortunately, many women in the life turn to drugs and alcohol to deal with the pain and stress of the life. Addictions follow these behaviors and last even after they escape the life. Chemical dependency programs are helpful for the women who suffer from substance abuse. Finding a good AA or NA group and working the 12-steps is really helpful. AA and NA are not for everybody a Celebrate Recovery or another faith-based group might also be helpful. Whatever route is taken this is one more step that is needed. You can see by this point it is not as simple as getting out of the life, there are many different areas or recovery that need to take place.
I will mention one more area of recovery that is needed: physical health. There is damage done to the body during the abuse that these women suffer. They need time to heal and medical professionals that are understanding. This would also include exercise and learning good eating habits. Exercise not only produces endorphins but also keeps her in shape, and this helps the body and mind recovery. Eating healthy is a good skill to have, but one that needs to be learned. A healthy diet is just one more healthy thing that will assist in recovery. A healthy body helps heal the mind.
In my opinion the biggest piece to recovery is a loving community. You can give a woman all the recovery components mentioned above, but if she doesn’t have a community she will be missing the most essential part. Women need other women who have been in the life to speak into their life, but they also need squares who have lived completely different lives. There is a need for the shared knowledge and experience as they regain their life. The connections that are made are going to be the foundation that will last in this rocky world. Community offers so much in terms of support and this is invaluable. Love is found in healthy relationships and love is the greatest healing force we know of.