She is Victorious: When Given a Fighting Chance

She is victorious…

When given a fighting chance

Responsive Programming Model

With a focus on Survivors of Gender Violence and the Commercial Sex Trade

Society must begin seeing women of gender violence and the commercial sex trade for who they truly are; a multinational, multicultural, multi-talented diverse cross section of humanity filled with their own hopes, dreams and aspirations. No little girl is born with the belief that when she grows up she wants her body to be sold for sex or under threat of daily violence. She grows up with ideas of grandeur & love, but those ambitions are stolen by poverty, abuse, and lack of opportunities. These underlying issues of intergenerational poverty, economic inequity, and barriers to social benefit institutions (i.e. University) can lead to women remaining dependent on their abusers, traffickers, pimps or “the system.”

The Hollywood versions of sex trafficking and gender violence are a single-story depiction of her that gives society the “broken-victim.”  When we believe in the broken-victim approach to assisting survivors in their healing transition our focus can become one of savior. This broken-victim approach can also disempower victims by making them feel damaged and worthless to the point that it potentially creates within them increased hopelessness and helplessness. Her thought may easily become, “Why not just go back to where I came from? At least they (abuser) accepts me.”

Another side of this single-story is the “woman-victor” who has, despite all the horrors she’s been laid to bare, rises up each day with restored hope for a better life. She gets up every day and makes it! She has made it through places none of us could ever imagine. As she discovers her own way out, it takes incredible courage, resilience and power to embark on a new life path. Honoring her choices with respect and dignity, while acknowledging her strengths are necessary elements in her forward success. She is looking out in the world to discover where she fits in, what she has to offer and where this new path is leading her. Her basic needs at exit are Community, Love, Encouragement, Acceptance, and Respect (CLEAR).

Our societies institutions have primarily been developed as “problem-centered” seeking methodically uniform solutions to complex social issues. For this reason, many institutions are required to label survivors with problems in order to create models that can prove desirable outcomes based on non variance or rigid methods. “It is understandable that some programs feel compelled by funders to create outcome statements” (Cris M. Sullivan, Ph.D., 1998, p. 20). Proving their program model outcomes are believed to be essential for research, evaluation and funding. This service approach focuses on the program model successes, often times leaving out the survivors personal successes and choices.

The “broken-victim” model may actually be creating additional trauma, keeping her disempowered and limiting her freedom of choice. The “broken-victim” can come to believe she is too depressed, mentally unstable or incapable of caring for herself. These beliefs of herself can lead to her continued dependency on another person or system to care for her, instead of believing she has the power and abilities to care for herself.

Where is our honest evaluation with regards to the woman-victors’ resilience, strengths and abilities? Only when we are able to  stop addressing her as “less than” can we begin to walk alongside her. For her own healing, we are given a chance to see her as capable, talented, and someone with natural gifts to offer the world. This asset based approach instills in  her a sense of belonging and fosters feelings that she truly matters. Her life experience gives her a wealth of assets that can provide her with building blocks for success.

No longer can program providers blame the “broken-victim” for her lack of successes without an honest evaluation of her strengths. “Again, women should be viewed as competent adults making the best decision(s) they can for themselves. Women who choose not to participate in pressing charges should not be viewed as “non-compliant” or “uncooperative.” Until the criminal justice system provides women with more protection and eliminates gender and racial bias and other barriers to justice, it should not be surprising when women choose not to participate in the criminal justice process.” (Cris M. Sullivan, Ph.D., 1998, p. 20)

A major factor in developing program service models seeking to address effective solutions in ending gender violence and exploitation is removing the blame from the victim by acknowledging the reasons women are abused or exploited. “The economic reasons why individual women enter prostitution and/or are trafficked are fairly straightforward. Not well spotlighted are the gendered facts that prostitution or sex entertainment is generally the only form of work that allows many women to make more money than they could in other circumstances; and that prostitution is overwhelmingly the selling of women's and girls' bodies to men for the sex of prostitution. An economic analysis is necessary but insufficient for explaining the business and the buyers of prostituted women. It leaves unaddressed the tolerated and/or accepted "natural law" of male sexuality‑that men's alleged innate sexual needs must be satisfied and therefore, that prostitution is inevitable.” (Silliman & Bhattacharjee, 2002, p.6)

A Responsive Programming Model asks survivors, “What skills do you have that can help you succeed? What are your strengths? What is your dream for your future? How can we help support you meeting your goals? What do you need right now to succeed?”  Responsive Programming Model listens to feedback and designs programming in response to the needs of those they seek to serve. This fundamental shift in approach leads to program evaluation standards based on survivors outcomes that are reasonable and progressive. It recognizes each individual’s unique barriers, addressing their personal goals and adjusts based on the responses it receives from the survivor. Responsive Programming is a more equitable approach to providing services.

At Shyne San Diego we are witnessing the positive outcomes in women-victors lives as they take on leadership roles. They respond brilliantly to their assignments, trainings and business development curriculum with poinency and grace. These women build each other up, share resources freely, expand their knowledge and rise to levels even higher than imagined. With several survivor-now-victor led non-profit organizations and business concepts in development Shyne’s professional team is honored to walk alongside these women-victors on their paths towards greater freedom and prosperity.