iEmpathize is pleased to bring you this blog post from Aubrey Terry-Lloyd, a licensed therapist and survivor of human trafficking. Aubrey provides clinical support for several residential programs for survivors including Sarah’s Home in Colorado. She specializes in trauma specific counseling and professional and inter-personal development for those that have been exploited. She also runs a program called UnCaged, which is currently working on purchasing houses and remodeling them to offer personal and permanent homes for survivors of any exploitation or abuse.
Aubrey partnered with iEmpathize during the development of The Empower Youth Program. In the image above, she is seen speaking at an iEmpathize prevention event at a Denver high school.
Here, she explains why schools should prioritize prevention education.
I was 16. I enjoyed school, was excelling in my classes, was dreaming about college and was popular. I had a friend who was a few years older, who had her own car and would pick me up sometimes from school. My mom didn’t notice anything wrong. My teachers didn’t notice anything wrong.
My friend encouraged me to run away. Her reasons made sense in my 16-year-old mind. My friend wasn’t a friend. She was a recruiter. That night, I was sold into a dark and violent world. At 16, my life was no longer under my control. I would lose my sense of self. My worth was assigned by my pimp.
I escaped this bondage later that year. No one knew what to do with me. I was angry and scared and didn’t know how to explain the truth of my nightmares. In an effort to makes things “normal” again, I went back to high school.
I went from being a girl who was in honor classes and involved in sports to a girl who felt like a foreigner in a strange land. Friends wanted to talk about boys, go shopping at the mall, or study for the SAT’s. I didn’t fit into this world. I didn’t fit anywhere. No one could understand the severity of pain and loss I was experiencing as a junior in high school. I walked the halls with my head down…I couldn’t afford to make eye contact…if I did they would surely see what shame had etched into my thoughts.
I had been raped, beaten, sold and discarded. It was my fault. I was unworthy of any future plans. Prostitutes don’t go to prom, don’t go to college, and don’t get married. They don’t find happiness. They don’t regain honor.
It took me 15 years of additional trauma and pain to realize those thoughts were lies.
Having this discussion in schools isn’t just to prevent teens from becoming victims. It helps victims own their right to be survivors. There are kids right now in schools who don’t know they were exploited. That it wasn’t their choice. That they can still dream of a future. They need your awareness. They need to know they still have a voice.
Thank you, iEmpathize, for being their microphone!