Living In Freedom Together (LIFT) has become an important place for the Survivors we work with. I am not going to get into my history but I am also a survivor and LIFT began because of the need for support services for women being sexually exploited in our community, I didn’t want my sisters to be alone on those streets anymore. We wanted them to know that they have a community that cares about them, and that I didn’t forget about them, nor leave them behind. It seems so simple, to provide support services in an environment that is safe for them. A place that they can trust we’ll do anything we can to help, and we are there to listen, love, and support them. LIFT has transformed into a complete community effort. Partner agencies provide on site testing, and narcan, we have support staff to help them process the sexual violence they are experiencing, we have college students, community members, and most importantly other survivors who get it and provide hope to those still stuck. For a few hours a week they are allowed to be women, not a product to be bought and sold, but their true self. We have seen lots of laughter, tears, anger, and emotion, they are allowed to feel.
I don’t think most understand that commercial sexual exploitation makes you become someone else. Whoever your purchaser needs you to be for that time-frame you become. Laughing at jokes that aren’t funny, smiling though the bile is rising in the back of your throat. “Yes this is the only place I want to be” you say, but inside it’s the only place you don’t want to be. You want to be better, you want to be with your children, you want to have a home and be with those who really love you, and not with those who pay to sexually assault you.
Exiting is not easy. People have this concept that you just stop it and walk away. That you get a job and put it behind you but it’s not that simple. It takes a lifetime to recover from exploitation of any form. There are roadblocks such as criminal records, there is substance use disorder, and there is trauma that invades every aspect of your being. It is not fun out there. It is not “Pretty Woman” but we can and do recover and there are many survivors working to help support others in the exiting process. LIFT is comprised of Survivors and allies who will assist in that process when they are ready, and are there to simply love our sisters in the meanwhile. Exiting cannot be rushed. It is an individual journey because we are all different and we all have different needs.
One of the greatest needs is housing. Imagine trying to recover without a safe place of your own to heal. LIFT is working to begin housing survivors but we need your help and financial assistance. We are working to provide survivors with that safe place to begin their journey. We need funds for renovations, furniture, and sponsorship to help our sisters begin to heal. This giving Tuesday please help us help our sisters. This is a community effort and we need your help.