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 (firstname.lastname@example.org). Stay posted for more reports on our Thursday court hearings. Pray for these strong and courageous women!