One of the greatest challenges that each woman at Amirah faces is when they reach the point where they need to work on vocational recovery, learning how to work, and discovering for themselves what kind of career path they would want to take.
Any one of us remembers being asked when we were young, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Even more so as we grew up, we each were given opportunities to be able to explore what we were good at, what we were passionate about, and seek out a career that not only would pay the bills, but be something that was life affirming for us.
The reality for a survivor is she will not be given that chance and opportunity because of her past.
We can ask her what her goals are for vocational recovery, but the reality is that even if she dreams big aspiring to become a lawyer, a nurse, a dental assistant, you name it, because of her past, these options will never be opened to her. Instead, she is earmarked for a life of customer service with minimum wage, because she has a misdemeanor or felony on her record.
She was told for years that all she was good for was being a ho; now that she wants to leave the cycle of exploitation, she is being told that all she is good for is minimum wage at places that will look the other way when the background check is run.
Most of the women that have come into our home have, if not one, multiple felony charges. Possession of heroin, drug trafficking, domestic violence assault, unlawful trafficking, and burglary – these are what we typically see, with most of these felonies being a result of their trafficker forcing them to do these things or as a direct result of the cycle of exploitation.
It is possible for these women to recover, but we are seeing that it only happens if they allow someone like Amirah to support them for the long-term, otherwise they will end up back in the cycle of exploitation. The trauma of their trafficking can be re-experienced with every interview as they attempt to explain the gaps in their resume. When they see the lack of experience, they hear once again their trafficker in their ear saying, "You are only good enough to be a ho."
Our goal for each woman is for her to be able to discover a path towards a vocation that is life-affirming for her and help her begin to walk that path. While every woman will get a job while she is with us at Amirah, this job will not be the life-long career that she is hoping for, but the stepping stone to restoring that path.
Most of us have spent years building up to our careers, from going to school, to internships, to doing the grunt work and paying our dues, to finally catching that big break - we can't expect any less for a woman as she explores her goals and career path. What we can do is help to alleviate that pressure for immediate satisfaction that they desire. It can be disheartening, to say the least, to have the formative years of your life stripped away from you by a trafficker, and then be told that you will still have to do those years - no one is just going to make you a lawyer because you can argue well.
This is where we walk with the woman to help her find the perseverance inside to go after her goals, because the reality is that the voice is always present, "All you are is a ho..." and she knows what she could go back to to make money. This is a fight we fight with her, the restoration of her dignity as she works through her vocational trauma.
This post is part of a series on The Goals of Whole-Person Care Recovery.