A Positive Healing Process leads to Reintegration into a Healthy Life “Without treatment we will almost always go back”

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It’s hard to believe sex trafficking exists in the United States. For me, it’s astonishing that it’s right in the state, city and neighborhood I reside.

The State of Hawaii’s Office of Community Service defines sex trafficking “in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age.” Unfortunately, sex trafficking is the reality of too many innocent lives.

Superstar volunteer, speaker, wife, mother and sex trafficked victim Tammy Bitanga was gracious enough to meet with me one on one to tell me about her story.

Bitanga found herself in the foster care system at 13 years old without recovering from the previous eight years of violence. The abuse started when she was just 4 years old. Being part of the foster care system could have been a turning point; it could have redirected the next chapter of her life. Instead, the sexual abuse from her dad was not addressed, therefore, she had no concept of purity or what it was.

She never healed. In her adolescence, she learned about prostitution. The other girls in foster care were doing it, why shouldn’t she? She already knew what to do, her father taught her that. If someone told her she could have control over her body then her life could have been different. If someone told her she had the ability to say no to the enemy who was exploiting her then her life could have been different.

It was the lack of healing, the lack of intervention, the lack of hope that led to 30 years of turmoil. “I don’t want anyone to go through that, it’s not necessary,” Bitanga said. She explained the importance of recovery as a change of mind and heart so you don’t go back to old behavior.

A proper healing process takes time, resources and a willing individual. There are cases where the girls are so broken and bitter that they don’t view themselves as a victim. “Many women and children rely on assistance to escape and recover from the violence and exploitation they have endured. However, despite their abusive experiences, some women and children view the sex trade as the only means of survival for themselves and their families” (Wickman).

According to a study done by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, more specifically The Study of HHS Programs Serving Human Trafficking Victims, there are several promising outreach strategies already in place. This study describes the importance of involving survivors in outreach efforts to provide credible and knowledgeable information. Collaboration with local law enforcement is essential to bridge the gap between local and federal law enforcement. Targeting specific at-risk populations and performing direct outreach to potential victims is a way to identify particular groups that might otherwise go unidentified.

Finding a safe environment is essential. With the growing number of community outreach programs, organizations and volunteers, there are more outlets than ever before for victims of sex trafficking.

Hoʻōla Nā Pua fits directly into the healing process. Bitanga clarified the work that Hoʻōla Nā Pua does. “Right now we are able to mentor victims of CSEC, help them to experience a new life by giving them different options. In the future, we will have the full wrap around services provided for them on the campus of the therapeutic residential facility.”

The vision of Hoʻōla Nā Pua is to provide girls who are rescued or have escaped from the abuse of sex trafficking with a path to restoration and healing from their trauma. We aim to increase their sense of self-worth and confidence to successfully reintegrate into the community. Find out more here.

“Without assistance, bad behavior will continue and will consequently spiral into worse behavior with life long consequences,” Bitanga explained.

 

Emma Kerwin

Hoʻōla Nā Pua Volunteer

 

Works Cited

Wickman, Leah. “The Rehabilitation and Reintegration Process for Women and Children Recovering from the Sex Trade.” 21 April 2009.

(http://labor.hawaii.gov/ocs/refugees-and-human-trafficking-victims/)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Aaron Schnobrich
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