By Susan Alves, Survivor Mentor, My Life My Choice
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.
Engaging with commercially sexually exploited boys has been a wonderful journey. Just recently Joseph, our first boy mentee, expressed the freedom he now feels after telling his mother that he is gay. He appears more mature, happier, and ready to face the world head-on; not to mention his healthier relationship with his mother, something he has always yearned for. In the past, he and his mother have had a very tumultuous relationship, one that escalated to the point of becoming physical before Joseph was removed from the home. Today, Joseph looks forward to spending time with his mother and giving her hugs. He has transformed from the frail, insecure kid I met more than a year ago to the open, happy young man I continue to work with today.
When I first met our second boy mentee, Paul, he struggled with trusting anyone. Having learned from experience, I knew not to push or pry. I let my unconditional love, and consistency in his life, speak for themselves. Working with Paul taught me that oftentimes boys don’t open up as quickly as girls do. However, when I introduced my own personal story, our whole relationship changed. The way he engages and shares with me is amazing, especially considering how hard it was at the beginning to even scratch the surface. Today, when I pick him up for visits, he runs to my car with a smile as bright as the sun. Most importantly, I can feel his sense of safety in my presence and this once closed-to-the-world young man has allowed me to be a part of his life.
As a Survivor Mentor, I am so grateful for the experience of watching these young men grow and for their allowing me to be a part of their lives. I look forward to continuing to work with our boys, and cannot wait to see what tomorrow will bring.