The Issue Is Complex
Victims of commercial sexual exploitation are severely manipulated and coerced by others to believe that they are willing participants in their own exploitation, and useless beyond their role as a money-generating commodity.
A sexually exploited woman's history of victimization and trauma lays the groundwork for a psychological belief that she deserves no better and has no other options. The journey out of such abusive and violent circumstances is a difficult one, especially because the women involved have often endured abuse since childhood. For many of them there is no such thing as choice, and once they are in it, it is extremely hard to get out.
Many of the women endure severe physical trauma and emotional abuse on a daily basis. A large percentage suffer from mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, disassociation, and post traumatic stress disorder due to the abuse. An overwhelming number have histories of childhood sexual abuse.
Because of these things, they are among some of the most vulnerable populations experiencing homelessness, mental health issues, substance abuse, domestic abuse, complex trauma, rape and sexual trauma, and general violence against women. This is not okay.
Understanding The Issue
Many people believe that prostitution is a choice, where consenting adults exchange sexual acts for money, but the truth is not often what it seems. The facts reveal that somewhere between 75%-95% of prostitutes were sexually abused as children, nearly 80% have been victims of rape, and the majority would like to escape, but feel trapped and without options. That doesn’t seem like much of a choice.
After much prayer, assessment, and survivor input, we believe one of the best contributions we can make is to journey with women as they leave exploitative situations. Many services exist, but few survivors have a trauma-informed advocate equipped to navigate these systems, or someone who truly understands and has been there. By journeying with women as they receive services and healing, as well as helping them navigate their new world with new tools and understanding, we can help ensure they’re receiving the best possible care.
True freedom for a survivor looks many ways, but it should always include reintegration into a healthy local community. We see the deep value of a healthy multigenerational support system. We never want to foster dependency, so as women grow and become independent, our support moves back slowly. However, we’ll always be there, as we see healing as a sacred journey that is done together.
Zahrah also operates with a rapid-response mentality. When we get a call about a woman who has an urgent need, we meet with them to provide a quick response to the dangers they could be facing. We have a conversation with them; we talk about the grooming processes, trauma-bonding, safety, healthy relationships, and solutions to potentially unsafe situations. Some of these women aren't ready to leave their situation yet, however, prayers, kind words, good advice, and meeting practical needs mean so much when feeling desperate and alone.
Our Journey So Far
Currently Zahrah connects with women through support groups it leads, relational connections it has made, and by word of mouth. We have been very blessed to walk beside so many incredible women in their various stages of healing and recovery.
We see every life as infinitely valuable, worthy of honor and respect, and deserving of dignity. There is not one woman who is unable to get free when she decides that is what she wants. God does not play favorites. His grace, mercy, and love are extended to all. He makes a way where there is no way. He delights in showering each one with deep purpose and a beautiful calling.
The Zahrah team is gearing up toward adding street outreach to its calendar. For 9 months we have been praying for the ones still out there, while we connect with ones in treatment centers, and individually. We continue to ask God to protect, heal, and make a way out for His daughters. We anticipate that He will lead us to the ones He wants us to meet.
We would like to begin gathering supplies for rescue backpacks. These packs will have items that women have told us they need as they navigate their world. Practical items are needed, such as hygiene products, feminine products, underwear, hair bands, combs, bibles, notebooks, pens, journals, etc. We also are feeling the call to do more SWA, AA, Art and Grief groups. The need is great. So many women are suffering without much hope. Zahrah, being survivor-led and survivor-centered, gives hope in ways other organizations cannot.
The feedback we have had from women is humbling and simply astounding. The trauma is complex and the wounds are complicated. Many women find it incredibly frustrating to seek help only to be misunderstood as their issues go unnoticed. They long to be called out and challenged, however, only by ones who understand the depths of their pain. Loving women in pain means saying the hard things and loving deeply through the exhausting process of healing. The women we journey with say we offer something very different; many have said Zahrah is the only place they feel safe enough to talk about the darkest places they've vowed to never speak on. Feeling safe is critical to being able to heal. We are thankful that God has gifted our team with that attribute.
We take this work seriously. We believe it is life and death work. Research has shown that women with this background have holocaust levels of trauma. That kind of pain is meant to be entered into respectfully and carefully. Too many women are being revictimized by organizations and individuals that do not understand their own healing journey, let alone someone else's. We on the core team at Zahrah are committed to our own healing processes and are able to lock arms with others and forge ahead into God's radiant healing light and unmatchable freedom.
If you would like to partner with us in any way, we would be honored. We believe multigenerational support systems are the best. We welcome input, ideas, critique, and encouragement. We long for passionate people who are open, honest, and willing to learn and grow.
Blessings and love,
The Zahrah Team