Editor’s note: Dr. Crouse is heading up Concerned Women for America’s Bridge Project, funded by a U.S. State Department grant, to train Mexicans to battle sex trafficking within their country. This article resulted from her recent trip to Mexico City. For more on the Bridge Project, click here.
On the second night of my week in Mexico City, 20 people gathered to launch a week of strategic planning as they joined together to lead the fight against human trafficking in Mexico. Each of the people around the table enjoying a formal dinner in that very nice restaurant will be playing a vital role as Mexican pro-family groups join forces in a united effort to combat human trafficking in their home country.
A beautiful blond woman named Leesa had a dramatic and life-changing impact on me. My interaction with her illustrates the importance of the Bridge Project (Phase One-the training session at the CWA headquarters) and the Crossing the Bridge Project (Phase Twothe outreach programs in Mexico City).
I sat across the table from Leesa,* whom I had not previously met, but she was down several people and almost too far away for conversation. All through the dinner I had tried to figure out how she fit into the leadership of the Red Familia, Mexico’s pro-family organizations. It was obvious that others around the table did not know her either, but I was impressed with Leesa’s personality and her vibrant conversation with those around her. She worked hard to make others comfortable and to ensure they were enjoying the evening. She had exceptionally well-honed social skills and, in contrast with some of guests, was quite comfortable in the upscale restaurant. She was well-dressed, full of life and a most interesting person.
Since I had not had an opportunity to talk with her I leaned over midway through the dinner and asked a general, leading question, hoping to get to know her a bit, “Leesa, what do you do?” From her startled expression, I knew immediately that I had stumbled into an awkward situation. She quickly regained her composure and with quiet, uncertain dignity answered, “I am trying to be a good person.”
Earlier in the day, I had been told that a young woman who had heard about their efforts to combat sex trafficking had come to Casa Subre La Roca (House on a Rock), the church spearheading the program, that morning wanting to get out of prostitution. While none of us knew that she would be coming to the dinner, I knew immediately that Leesa was the prostitute I had heard about.
We continued talking, others joined in. Leesa continued to be a delightful conversationalist who helped make the dinner a resounding success, but there was a haunting uncertainty and insecurity in her demeanor that tugged at my heart. Afterwards, Leesa was part of a group saying good night to me. I leaned over and hugged her goodbye just as I hugged others in the group. She hugged me back and said, “I want very much to be like you and the other women I have met here tonight. Thank you for helping me to have hope that I can change.”
After she left, I asked several Casa Subre La Roca leaders what help would be available for her. I learned that Leesa had already been assigned to a group of 12, patterned after Christ’s disciples, where she would be mentored. Her group leader would ensure her assimilation into the group and monitor how she was fitting in. The group leader would call her at least three times a week and visit with her if the situation warranted and it seemed appropriate.
In addition, Leesa was already scheduled to meet once a week with a psychologist, a woman who was also at the dinner and who I talked with about Leesa and her potential. The psychologist assured me that she would help Leesa work through the emotional and psychological healing that would have to take place. Leesa’s new friends at Casa Subre La Roca helped her develop a very concrete plan and a schedule for specific help that would make her hope for restoration become a reality; all she had to do was make the commitment. She seemed ready to take that important step.
Leesa can be rescued and she can work toward restoration. I followed up and learned that she did make the commitment and has been rescued. She has found a group of people who have accepted her; she has been welcomed with open arms. She has, in every sense of the word, found a home. She has become a part of a “family” where she will be both nurtured and held accountable. I am confident that her confidence will grow in that environment; she will have plenty of opportunity for her personality to flower and her natural gifts to develop. Leesa has the potential to be a strong leader and her past experience will enable her to be sensitive to the needs of those caught in the snares of sex trafficking.
Leesa’s rescue and her process of restoration illustrates both the success of the Bridge Project and the potential of the Crossing the Bridge Project.
* Her name has been changed.
Dr. Crouse is senior fellow for the Beverly LaHaye Institute, CWA’s think tank.