I live 30 minutes from a track. A track? You may ask, as in athletics, running, 100 yard dash.
No. A track as in young girls being trafficked, sold and exploited. It’s called The Blade in Sacramento, a 9 mile track that is not far from me. An hour away in Placerville I work for Summitview Child and Family Services where I am a Residential Skills Coach. Many clients come from The Blade, because the house I work in is a CSEC program.
These girls range from 12 to 17 years old and they have been through more trauma than anyone can imagine. Since the time i’ve worked at the CSEC house, four clients and now recently five have gone back to the life. I ask myself what could I have done better? What drew them back? Were we not effective enough? These question haunt me, knowing that at least three of these girls have experienced our program more than once. Yet, they walk the track again.
I am apply to Arizona State University to maintain a Masters in Social Work focused in Intervention and Prevention research to create innovative solutions to this on going global epidemic. I earned a Bachalors Degree in Theatre Arts with a minor in Sociology at the University of Arizona. How did I go from theatre to social services? Well, theatre is what sparked my interests in the subject I care about today.
When I studied theatre we were given the opportunity to study social problems, human rights, and controversy. A handful of plays changed my outlook and made me want to study subjects like these more, which is why I took up sociology. Plays like, The Rover, Gaslight, Doll House, and the most important inspiration, The Trojan Barbie. This specific play engages the audience into a dialogue about aspects of trafficking and gender inequality. While other plays taught me of abusive relationships, gaslighting, and the dehumanization of an individual. I absorbed these topics having an urgency to learn more.
The courses I took in sociology were about deviance, social structures, norms, gender inequalities and social movements. The diverse topics filled me with curiosity and when I had a chance I would wiggle the topic of trafficking and any form of commercially exploitation into any research to I could. During my last semester in college I created a campaign blog to bring awareness to the subject of trafficking and exploitation. Here I spoke with some survivors I came to Summitview Child and Family Services looking for hands on experience.
I applied solely to work with survivors of trafficking. I was a Residential Skills Coach in a level 14 facility in California, the highest a mental health group home could be, just below a complete lock down facility. I assisted with motivational encouragement and accommodated intensive services when they needed support and applied DBT (Dialetical Behavioral Therapy) skills when in crisis. We needed to keep the clients safe; to provent harm from themselves and harm to others. I worked in the CSEC house (Commercially sexually exploited chidren). The first day working in the CSEC program was an eye opening day. I sat in on one of their group counceling session where they process what they have gone through and what’s on their mind.
We all sat outside as they took turns expressing, listening to their experiences was sometimes difficult to process. When it came to this one particular client to go, she went to pick up a jump rope and folded the jump rope in half. As she went into explicit detail about her exploitation she started whipping the jump rope against the cement, it was clear she had her exploiter on her mind as you heard the snap of the rope as hit it the ground.
I knew in this moment I wanted a career in Social Work focused in CSEC. Working in this form of social services has taught me a variety of things that I will carry with me in my endeavors. Through all sorts of social services we are helping others work towards a solution, advocating for their needs and guiding them through difficult times. There are many situations where I had to remain calm under pressure and problem solve in that moment, recently we had a client AWOL from our facility, one staff followed on foot while I followed by car. She stopped at the end of the road while me and the other staff were just 100 feet away on the street. Suddenly a car comes flying around the corner and during that moment the client decided to walk in the middle of the street, I took that opportunity to speed in front of the truck and switch on my hazards bringing that truck to a crawl behind me.
While I parked in front of our client and made the truck drive around. I have learned some important skills along the way. When you are working with young girls who are dealing with traumatic experiences, patients is a key factor.
There are many times girls will start arguing, yelling or even threatening me, it’s often difficult to not be emotionally invested but over time I’ve learned patience. The foundation I believe came from the way I was thinking in moments of resistance. Instead of thinking in my mind “what is wrong with this girl?” I changed the attitude to “what has happened to this girl?” Allowing me to be more empathetic and to understand the problem at hand.
There are many days and nights I’ve had to actively listen to the hurt my clients go through; whether they are worth something, how they really want to take a hit of some drug, if their pimp loves them, and if life is even worth living. I’ve validated their feelings during these difficult times, and effectively communicating their DBT skills like distress tolerance and emotional regulation skills. Just letting the youth know that I hear them and I’m there for them. Being an aid towards different resources creating valueable services for the clients.
It’s also to possess social perceptivenessI am applying to Arizona State University because I am a great fit for how dedicated to making innovative change and solutions towards exploitation and trafficking. Arizona State University cares as much for the program as I do, even having STIR to help provide research and solutions. Through my statement, I believe it shows my ability to handle stressful situations. Also, it shows my motivation in wanting to reduce targets on vulnerable youth internationally. My goals are not simple, I’m willing to work hard for it.
I’ve been threatened to be killed or to be hurt by some clients, dealt with fights, awoling, suicide attempts, self harm, emergency interventions, and other countless effeorts to scare me away. I havent run away from these clients because I care. This is a subject that I am dedicated twards to fight for these girls right to live a better life. Fight for a solution so this doesn’t have to happen to other girls and even boys.