Kinship care defines a way of caring for others that includes them as a member of a family. Emotional, social, cultural, psychological, physical, and sexual wounding cause the dysfunctional behaviors we see in sex-trafficking and prostitution. All the wounds of sexual exploitation are caused by people harming other people. In kinship care, the opposite occurs. People heal people. Human beings were created for community: communities of love, nurture, protection, and provision. Families and communities where their gifts, talents, and dreams can be seen and supported.
Peace Promise sees the women we serve as members of our family. We delight in discovering passions, gifts, talents, and dreams that were never joyfully seen and encouraged. And we do everything in our power to see those dreams come to life.
Compassion, tenderness, empowerment, and safety guide us as we support the process of deep healing. Healing from wounds of complex trauma is difficult road. It can only be accomplished in the safety of a loving, protective family. It’s not unusual for our Executive Director, Patty Seaman, to be referred to as “Mama Bear.” We all smile and affirm that nickname with a deep understanding of the need for a mama-bear to provide a net and hedge of safety for the women we serve. There are tender, vulnerable moments in a relationship when trust is being developed and strengthened. These times require the safety of a hedge of protection. A mama-bear.
For women who have missed out on some of the most basic and valuable life-skills, we provide a fresh beginning tailored to their specific needs. It’s not unusual to find our life-skills team mentoring women in activities like keeping a schedule, food-planning & grocery shopping, medical self-care, parenting, recovery support, continuing education, and spiritual self-care. Many of us experienced this training in our nuclear families. When those skills and modeling are absent or disrupted it makes day-to-day living arduous.
The most important aspect of kinship-care is a deep, palpable experience of unconditional love. The term unconditional love is used often in our culture. We all assign meaning to the term. The road to healing from sexual exploitation can be long, messy, and include many setbacks. It’s the true unconditional love in those setbacks and failures that build the structure for women to believe they are worthy to try one more time. A family that is rooting for you, weeping with you, praying for you, and standing by you as you try to find the person inside who God created makes all the difference. The term Imago Dei means, “Image of God.” It’s a theological term given to human beings that means we each bear the image of God. Each and every human being on earth is made in the image of God and is of invaluable worth. We carry in our hearts the belief that the women we serve are treasured, important, beloved, worthy human beings. This is the polar opposite of the experience they had when they were being exploited in prostitution.
An organization that inspired us is Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles. Every Board Member at Peace Promise has read the book Tattoos on The Heart by Fr. Greg Boyle. We share the same heart and spirit as Homeboy Industries toward humanity, love, compassion, and power. Fr. Greg was given a parish in LA in the ’80s that was filled with gang members. These people made in the image of God were at war with one another, at war with their community, and at war with the LAPD. They were some of the most hated people on earth. Today Homeboy Industries in the most successful gang rehabilitation program in the world. No one believed in Homeboy Industries at the beginning. Certain death, community isolation, incarceration, violence, and poverty had no helpful effect on the gangs in LA. There were no threats or punishments available that caused gang members to leave their criminal ways. Nothing was working…..until love showed up. Fr. Greg quickly discovered that there was no real way out for these men and women. No hope for a future. Who would hire a former gang member? They were tattooed from head-to-toe. They were terrifying in every way. They had criminal records. So Fr. Greg developed the industry that would hire them. Homeboy Industries has a roust life-skills education and support training and plenty of kinship care. Unconditional love is indeed the only thing that worked to draw gang members toward hope and a future.
Unconditional love and kinship care are what human beings were designed for. It is where and how human being thrive and develop. Peace Promise is kinship care for victims and survivors of sexual exploitation in Central PA. We have the most powerful weapon for change on earth—unconditional love – and we’re not afraid to use it.
Article was written by Susan Vigliano, President of the Board of Directors