Supporting Women at New Friends New Life
Supporting Women at New Friends New Life
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March is Women’s History Month and the perfect time to discuss, consider, and celebrate the empowerment of women in our society. At New Friends New Life, we serve an incredible community of women that have survived sex trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation. We find ourselves celebrating the strength, resilience, and tenacity that the women we serve demonstrate on a daily basis and invite you to join us in that celebration today. Sex trafficking is one of the many manifestations of violence against women, especially in Dallas where our organization is located. Texas ranks second behind California in rates of victimization and Dallas ranks second behind Houston within those Texas statistics.
Southwest Airlines has been an important partner in supporting the mission of New Friends New Life by providing financial support toward programming as well as training staff to recognize signs of trafficking and to take action. This is a crucial component in our partnership as airlines can serve as modes of transportation within a trafficking operation and therefore can also be a space in which that operation gets disrupted and victims can get to safety.
Most of the women we serve have complex and chronic backgrounds of traumatic experiences, often including things like childhood sexual abuse, domestic violence, and sexual assault. They frequently have a criminal record as a result of what their trafficker has forced them to do. They also likely have a history of substance abuse due to their experiences of being trafficked. It would be easy to get lost and disheartened with all of that trauma, and yet, when you look into the face of any one of the women we serve at New Friends New Life you are met with eyes filled with hope, determination, and bravery. It is a place where the strength of women is palpable in the air. These women are not defined by their experience, but rather are seeking support and services to heal from their past and dream about their future.
Our women’s program is structured with four phases and there are three focus areas within each phase: counseling, case management, and economic empowerment. Everyone enters in the first phase and works to complete the identified goals for Phase One. The goals include things like establishing stable housing, identifying a strategy for paying bills, attending hard and soft skill employment classes, and establishing treatment goals for therapy. Each phase builds upon itself and the goals completed in the previous phase. In doing this, we are providing a guide to self-sufficiency for women who may have never been given one. As confidence and self-sufficiency are gained over time through this process, women are able to begin to take the next steps toward the lives they have desired for themselves.
Because of both the complexity and chronicity of the trauma the women we serve have experienced, they often have not had had people celebrating their successes, strengths, and their very humanity. As a part of our program, we take time on a quarterly basis to recognize the women that have progressed to the next phase of the program and to celebrate their achievements. In addition, twice per year, we hold an official graduation ceremony to celebrate the women who have completed the program in its entirety and are ready to join our Alumni Circle. If there were ever a demonstration of the transformation that can occur in a woman when she is given support, resources, and a pathway forward, no one need look further than those graduation ceremonies.
It is in those moments as I watch a woman’s entire countenance change, face lighting up as she receives her graduation certificate in her cap and gown after having survived all she has survived, that I most fully believe that when women are given a chance, they can change the world.
Happy Women’s History Month! To learn more about our work please visit https://www.newfriendsnewlife.org/.
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