November, 2021 Monthly Reflection

The Beauty and Challenges of the Autumn Season

By Kathleen Coll, SSJ

The autumn season is a favorite of mine. Usually, the weather here in the mid-Atlantic is mild with cool evenings, Autumn can also bring cold rainy days with colder days ahead. We need to remain open to what the season holds. Yes, the burst of color surrounding us is amazing! Everywhere you look the trees adorn themselves with beautiful shades of red, orange, brown and yellow. Under the canopy of this beauty exists the reality of what one human being can do to exploit another to enrich themselves.

Commercial sexual exploitation (CSE) or sex trafficking is a serious form of modern slavery that does not discriminate. Along with labor trafficking, sex trafficking happens to children, women and men. Pope Francis said, “It is not possible to be indifferent before the knowledge that human beings are bought and sold.” He calls it “a global economic system dominated by profit.” The Pope strongly condemns this new form of slavery urging people of all religions and cultures to denounce and combat it.

As director of Dawn’s Place, a house for women survivors of CSE or sex trafficking, I see them struggle daily to heal from the trauma caused by the extreme poverty, neglect, abuse and exploitation that they have experienced. Being open to what lies ahead; working through challenges, and keeping hope alive have been hallmarks of the residents of Dawn’s Place. I thought you might like to read a few of their reflections.

One of the residents writes: “I was lost for so many years feeling like I was destined for a life of abuse, drugs, and self-hatred. I just accepted that I deserved that way of life. I’m now working hard in therapy, with the steps in recovery and group work. Today I am becoming a different person. I’m finding a new way of life and my self-esteem is growing.”

Another writes: “As I progress through the program, I am learning not only how to take care of myself, but more importantly how to love myself. I am finding my self-worth. I also have something I never had before and that is hope. I now have hope for a brighter future than I ever would have dared to dream about before.”

One resident who recently returned to Dawns Place writes: “I am so grateful Dawn’s Place took me back a second time. I’m grateful that I have the opportunity for a better life then the life I was living. I’ve been learning a lot about myself and how to be a better woman. It’s probably the closest I’ve felt like home in a very long time.”

The mission of Dawn’s Place is to extend hope and healing from sex trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation. By offering individual trauma-informed and group therapy, along with providing yoga and music therapy as well as life skills, Dawn’s Place works to support women in their journey of healing and becoming that new person.

Our desire for every woman who comes to Dawn’s Place is that she will find the courage to break the cycle of violence, recover from trauma, reclaim her dignity and go on to live as a healed, independent and productive member of society. Do we succeed with every woman who comes to Dawn’s Place? No, but we try. (
Kathleen Coll, SSJ, a Sister of St. Joseph of Philadelphia, is a member of The Alliance Board of Directors.

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