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Catch March 23, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — julieannclark @ 2:08 am

12-14 is the average age of entry into prostitution in America!

Last Thursday, I was in a courtroom with about 30 recovering prostitutes. It might have affected me as much as my first trip to Russia in 1993. I sat in back, observing, completely absorbed in their stories, their lives, their struggles, their victories… There were tears flowing from every face, (including the judge). There were group hugs, (including the judge!)

There were those who have been clean for 348 days, and one who was clean for only the 36 days she just spent in jail. And there was one who didn’t show up– GPS showed her heading north on high street… Another left between court sessions to get high because she was nervous.

One woman testified to having her child placed back with her after several years in foster care. (A sweet 5 year old boy who drew pictures of his family all over my notebook!)

Another woman in the program was only 18 years old, about 6 months pregnant, 60 days sober– and was a victim of Human Trafficking at age 14. Afterward, she stayed behind and talked with me– exchanging stories about our 2.5 year old daughters. It’s probably not an uncommon story, since the average age of entry into prostitution in America is 12-14 years old.

What kind of court is this? It’s a court created to CATCH women before it’s too late. CATCH, Changing Actions to Change Lives– a two year program created by a judge in Columbus, who tired of seeing women come across his bench 8-9 times for solicitation, in and out of jail, on and off of drugs… getting their children taken from them, and falling prey to the lies of this world. The cycles are evident. When asked if their moms abandoned them, over 90% of the room lifted their hands. Same when asked about their fathers. And all raised their hands when asked if they struggle(d) with addiction. Catch is designed to break these cycles.

The women attend one weekly court hearing to review progress and receive encouragement from other women in the program who share the desire to escape the dangerous and deadly trappings of the street. Participants are treated with respect and their individual recovery accomplishments are applauded. And applaud, we did! Sobriety, family reunions, honesty, and even healthy eating (water instead of pop for the week!)

At the end of the two year program most participants are eligible to have their conviction dismissed and expunged. They are strong enough to sustain recovery on their own, work, be reunited with family, and live independently. What strength! What an amazing judge with a heart of gold. You could feel the love in the room from the second you opened the courtroom doors.

Doma/Green Light is still figuring out how we are going to serve this population here in Columbus. To start, we are planning to do retreats and days of pampering in the next few months. I’ll be headed to Linwood House with a team in June to learn from them.

Want to be involved? Want to come on Thursdays, or be part of the team going to Linwood House?–If so, shoot me an email (julie@domaconnection.org). Stay posted for more reports on our Thursday court hearings. Pray for these strong and courageous women!

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2 Responses to “Catch”

  1. steffany Says:

    what an awesome program. I would be there in a heartbeat if lived close enough. This is incredible stuff Julie. I know their plight very well my friend. That was me so many years ago

  2. Carrie Says:

    It has been ten days since I visited Catch Court. It’s difficult to even know how to respond after thinking about my experience so many days after. I really didn’t know what to expect.

    About a year ago, I read an article in the Columbus Dispatch about a girl who grew up in my community and somehow got absorbed into a life of drugs and prostitution. The thought of it appalled me, sickened me, and made me think about how I might be able to help.

    Just recently, I learned about Catch Court and Doma’s response to Human Trafficking. These women are amazingly brave. They are in different stages of recovery; some are so scared and confused about why anyone would want to help them while others further along in their recovery lift them up with words of encouragement and love. A woman came before the judge to enter the program with zero days of recovery, zero days. She had gotten high that morning. Unbelievable. And even more unbelievable was that she was accepted into the program, a relief to the woman for a new chance on life, a new opportunity to escape the demons that drive her to despair. I met a woman who had been on the street since age 14, finishing school only to the seventh grade, in and out of prison, yet she had the most beautiful smile on her face because she is safe, encouraged, and hopeful in her recovery. Another woman shared with me an amazing piece of art that she had created with ribbons, photos, and language that documented the ups and downs of her recovery process.

    So what is next? I want to help however I can. I want to continue to attend Catch Court, assist in workshops, and learn more about helping those who struggle. The dreams of these women inspire me. They dream of living lives of normalcy that we take for granted. They dream to live lives where they are not afraid, where no one owns them, but they own themselves. These courageous women, I want them to live their dreams.

    My six-year-old son told my husband the other night as they were driving under a brilliantly clear sky that our dreams are in the stars. That is quite profound; it really is.


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