Light in the darkness of sexual exploitation
by Katie Pearn
In 2013 Amy Stephenson prayed a bold prayer: that God would break her heart for the things that break His. While His answer was not what she was expecting, it has led her on a journey to help bring light into the world of human trafficking and sexual exploitation. God gave her a vision and a name, and “Christ Heals in Low Lights” (CHILL) was formed.
“When I first prayed that prayer, this issue of human trafficking really wasn’t one that was talked about a lot,” she says. “When God gave me the name, I really sensed that He wanted to shine His light in the darkness, and to show those impacted by exploitation that they are valued and loved.”
CHILL addresses the issue of exploitation through a multifaceted approach, including education and partnerships, prevention, intervention, and recovery of those impacted by exploitation. They also provide communities of safety and belonging, where individuals are empowered to discover a brighter future.
On the education and partnerships side, CHILL works with many strategic partners to have the most impact. “We currently work with schools, churches and a number of organizations to help them understand the issue and be able to identify people who are being exploited, because this issue doesn’t discriminate,” says Stephenson.
For example, after discovering that truck stops tend to be hubs for trafficking, CHILL partnered with an organization called Open Road Chapels to help train men and women in the trucking industry to know the signs to look for, and to be the eyes on our highways. CHILL is also working with health professionals to help them be able to identify exploited individuals in hospitals and clinics, as research shows that many will access healthcare services while being exploited.
From the angle of prevention, CHILL works with schools to help educate students about the recruiting tactics traffickers use and the risk factors they look for.
“We know that traffickers prey on their victims’ deep-seeded need for belonging,” says Stephenson. “This is a need we all have, so we make students aware of the predatory approach of exploiters, while promoting and encouraging healthy relationships.”
CHILL also works directly with people who have been exploited to promote healing and recovery. This is mainly done through one-on-one coaching, career and academic guidance and by creating safe communities.
Once a month, they host community nights, where a meal is shared and caring volunteers and staff come together with the women to visit and lend a listening ear. This approach has led to several women finding fulfilling work, and the strength to leave their pimps or traffickers.
“It’s all about helping them know they have value. Their voices are worth hearing and they are powerful, and we try to help them believe and reclaim that,” Stephenson explains.
CHILL is always looking for people who want to join with them as they shed light into the darkness of exploitation. For more information on how you can get involved, visit www.chill.community, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.