Challenges & joy: How trafficking affects motherhood
This Sunday, people across the nation will celebrate the mother figures of their families – mothers, grandmothers, foster moms, adoptive moms, mentors – women who have loved unconditionally and made great sacrifices.
Each sex trafficking survivor has a unique road to recovery, and for many of them, this intersects with motherhood. While there is limited data on sex trafficking and motherhood, the Polaris Project reports, "[trafficking] survivors pointed to sustained unemployment, unpaid debts, and desperation to provide for themselves and their children as major factors in their path to exploitation. Many described the promises made by their controller as their best chance of attaining some level of financial stability."
Lynda Harlos, the mother of a sex trafficking survivor, shared with Victim Services Durham Region how her daughter became pregnant as a teenager after being sexually assaulted. During her pregnancy, she entered into a relationship that would lead to her being sex trafficked.
"Her one goal in life was to have a big family and a loving husband," said Harlos. "Along comes a man in her life who finds out she's pregnant and is telling her everything she wants to hear. That he is going to help her, he's going to take care of her."
Lynda explains that at the time, she didn't know what domestic sex trafficking looked like and how it, unfortunately, went on for years. However, by working together as a family, her daughter was eventually able to get help and begin her recovery.
Motherhood presents both challenges and moments of joy for sex trafficking survivors.
Columbia University conducted a study in 2021 investigating how sex trafficking trauma affects survivors' parenting and how many of them "questioned their ability to be good mothers."
Amidst the added difficulties of parenthood, the Columbia study also reported that "All participants regarded their children as the main reason for living, for working towards a better future. Many reported experiencing strong connections to their children, with moments of joy and playfulness. The study showed how the process of reestablishing feelings of happiness and trust through motherhood can help women find meaning in life, increasing their resilience and ability to cope with the consequences of traumatic experiences."
For some Hope Center residents, motherhood is something they're extremely proud of, and the primary motivation for getting well. Hope Center works alongside survivors who are mothers, as they pursue healing and wholeness. The Take Heart Residential program focuses not only on the relational and spiritual healing that must occur, but also on attaining the employability skills and financial independence required for them to support themselves and their children – for them to embrace motherhood while also taking care of themselves.
As you celebrate Mother's Day this weekend, join us in praying for the mothers in each of our three residential programs, as well as their children. Pray that our residents would come to know the ever-present and ever-comforting love of God as they walk toward wellness and restoration, in order to provide a better future for themselves and their families.