While the last two weeks have battered us heart and soul, we have seen what it looks like when survivors like Janae are truly heard and we have witnessed the powerful mobilization for change when they are not. We believe Dr. Ford and thank her for her courage and for bringing the voices of survivors to the forefront. Our voices are getting louder. Our voices are being heard. We have every reason to work harder. We have every reason to fight. And we have every reason to hope.
Many of the My Life My Choice girls in our Leadership Corps Program understand the impetus and experience of running away from a personal perspective, and the campaign is an attempt to bring their authentic voice to the issue, for youth by youth.
This resulting poster, aptly named “The Streets Don’t Love You,” will have an impact on vulnerable girls statewide. As many of the My Life My Choice girls understand the impetus and experience of running away from a personal perspective, their authentic voice will shine through.
After many years of serving exclusively girls, My Life My Choice recognized a need to begin serving boys and trans youth, ages 12 to 18. The expertise we gained working with commercially sexually exploited girls for the past fourteen years, though somewhat different, applies to this underserved population as well. We were fortunate to already have Susan Alves onboard as a survivor mentor. Susan previously worked with men overcoming addiction, so we knew her skills made her the perfect fit for this pilot program.
When I boarded a plane to Denver last March, I did so as a leader and an expert in the commercial sexual exploitation of children. When I last left Denver, I was a very different person. I had been introduced to the city by a violent pimp after driving across the country with him, and being forced to work at countless strip clubs along the way. I had left, feeling worthless, after a particularly violent beating by my pimp spurred me to purchase a one-way ticket to Boston and never look back. I knew that I had to leave to save my life.
Twice a week, for ten weeks each summer, the My Life My Choice office is abuzz with our annual Summer Leadership Corps. This summer of 2015 was no exception. Five young leaders from My Life My Choice participated in the program which included activities ranging from meeting with Congressman Joseph Kennedy III and Ambassador Swanee Hunt, to making vision boards and a crash course in spinning at Soul Cycle. The idea of this program is to teach our girls important job skills – communications skills, teamwork, appropriate dress – while also teaching them how to take care of their whole selves and to build positive relationships with other girls. Their takeaways from the program are as diverse as they are …
My Life My Choice was honored to bring the More Than a Survivor photo exhibit to Boston’s City Hall from October 7 to October 16, 2015, and was so grateful to the Mayor's Office for hosting. On October 7th, we held a celebratory opening night that brought together city officials, community leaders, and like-minded supporters to honor the strength and resilience of the women photographed in the exhibit. Featuring stunning portraits of twenty-two women (including our Associate Director, Audrey Morrissey) who are all leaders in the arts, politics, science, nonprofits and more, the exhibition showcases the leadership of survivors in their communities.
As I write this blog post, two of our girls, Mara and Nisa, are missing. Both fifteen, they were referred to us when they were found to have been sold on Backpage.com. Grown men had bought them like commodities —for pleasure, for the rush, to do harm. A trafficker had lured them, coerced them, manipulated them, until they believed he was their family and would do anything for him. Though recovered by law enforcement and having just initiated services with us, they are gone again. It is likely that right now someone is abusing these two middle schoolers—degrading them, demeaning them, and hurting them.
One of the most important parts of my job as a federal representative is understanding how the policy we craft in Washington shapes the lives of people back home. Earlier this year, Congress passed an important piece of legislation called the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act (or JVTA) which will help hold offenders accountable, provide funding for prevention and education, and establish a Domestic Trafficking Victims’ Fund supported by the fines collected from traffickers.
I frequently find myself wondering, how is it possible that people are so misinformed about the realities of domestic sex trafficking in the United States? The answer lies in the media representation of this issue. The mainstream media is inundated with misleading language, like ‘teen prostitute,’ and false realities. The mass media capitalist culture that we live in today allows the media to distort, censor and sensationalize the truth in hopes of earning a greater profit.
A straight-A student from a “good home”, there was no way I should have been exploited. My stepdad and I got into a fight and he threw me out of the house. Throwing me out of the house was like throwing me to a pack of wolves. I’d been sheltered all my life and I thought everyone had my best interest at heart; now looking back, I see their ulterior motives.
At My Life My Choice we offer a continuum of survivor-led services that focus on preventing the commercial sexual exploitation of youth. As Associate Director of My Life My Choice, I have used my voice to advocate and empower youth caught in the Life, and adult survivors of commercial sexual exploitation.
This is an incredibly exciting time at My Life My Choice and in the movement to end the commercial sexual exploitation of children. My Life My Choice and the often unspoken epidemic of sex trafficking are featured in a new documentary airing on PBS next week. As a follow up to the powerful documentary series Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, the new film, A Path Appears, follows reporters Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn and actor/advocates to Colombia, Haiti, Kenya, and throughout the United States as they uncover the harshest forms of gender-based oppression and human rights violations, as well as the effective solutions being implemented to combat them.
My Life My Choice is so excited to be featured in the great new documentary series, A Path Appears, premiering on PBS on January 26. From the best-selling authors and creators of Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, A Path Appears examines the struggles women face in the United States and abroad, and the inspiring individuals working with them to create effective solutions.
On September 20th, Lisa Goldblatt Grace, co-founder and director of My Life My Choice, was recognized for her Outstanding Contributions to the Field of Social Work at Boston University. This prestigious award honors a Boston University School of Social Work graduate whose contributions to social work have been of exceptional value to the profession and the community-at-large.
Two weeks ago, I visited Tanya at her new home: her college dorm. When we first met Tanya, she was fourteen years old. She had been commercially sexually exploited by men who believed that she was a commodity that one could use and throw away. Her community saw her as a "bad kid". Tanya felt judged and worthless. When Tanya met her Survivor Mentor, Ann, and wasn't convinced that we could help. She felt alone and profoundly angry--she had every right to be. She had been victimized by a multibillion dollar industry that systematically targets the most vulnerable children in our communities.