Friends of Uffizi,
Thank you for your continued support and interest in our work! In the past month I have seen even greater movement in the Santa Barbara County to address the issue of sexual exploitation of children, as well as adult survivors. I will be continuing to engage faith communities with this opportunity, and see that particular intersection as an avenue to resource survivors, promote awareness, and engage local churches in this important conversation of social justice.
In previous newsletters, I have introduced my interest in prevention of trafficking for vulnerable youth. iEmpathize is an organization that has developed a five-module exploitation prevention curriculum called the “Empower Youth Program.” The curriculum emphasizes empathy as a way to combat exploitation in the lives of youth. I am especially interested in its scope; iEmpathize does not only highlight risk factors of exploitation (a risk-reduction strategy), but also addresses exploitation on a continuum. The continuum includes bullying, sexual abuse, as well as sexual exploitation and human trafficking, all within the framework of a resiliency-based approach focused on building empathy in an increasingly narcissistic culture. The curriculum emphasizes the need for youth to develop healthy ways to navigate negative influences in their lives, including the identification of positive role models and activities.
I used the curriculum in a five-week pilot with local youth in crisis, and was incredibly grateful for the opportunity. I found that the curriculum effectively helped to initiate conversations about exploitation and negative influences in their lives, as well as how empathy relates to identifying and becoming positive influences. The conversations also gave me a timely reminder of the real challenges faced by young people, particularly in situations of high vulnerability.
We are currently in the midst of identifying creative housing solutions for survivors. If you are interested in being part of this conversation, please do let me know! I am eager to utilize community connections to help meet this pressing need.
Merry Christmas to you all, and blessings as you begin 2016!
In the spirit of Shalom,