This January, Awaken, with the support from caring community partners, opened the Awaken Drop-in Center, located off of 4th and Spokane St, a hot spot for trafficking, prostitution and CSE. Purposefully located, Awaken is removing barriers and increasing accessibility to its programs and services. The center serves individuals’ basic and critical needs, including case management, education, counseling, mentoring, food and clothing. Coming to our center is completely voluntary. We aim to be a place of safety by being a consistent presence that provides immediate tangible needs and resources offerings help and hope. We want to stand with them as they pursue a life free from sexual exploitation.
Awaken is proudly working to serve victims of commercial sexual exploitation with a variety of direct and supportive services. Yet, it also recognizes that measures must be taken to prevent these tragedies from occurring in the first place. These measures include preventative education efforts targeting the most vulnerable population – disadvantaged youth. Awaken provides school assemblies and school curriculum, and works with youth groups to talk to local students about the realities of human trafficking and how to prevent it from happening to them or their loved ones.
One of the most exciting prevention services offered by Awaken is a middle school unit on slavery (which explores modern-day slavery) available for free to local teachers. All lessons meet State Common Core Standards and are taught by Awaken staff. This unit was first successfully presented in May of 2014 to Vaughn Middle School 7th graders.
Since January 2014, Awaken has already worked with more than 830 students from Damonte Ranch High School, Vaughn Middle School, Truckee Meadows Community College, the University of Nevada, Reno, and others.
In 2013, Awaken conducted outreach and/or provided direct services to 61 women and girls (a 45% increase over the previous year) to help them transition out of commercial sexual exploitation. Nearly all victims served by Awaken have had a history of emotional, physical, or sexual abuse. As many of the women have been trafficked beginning at a young age, navigating the world as a free adult or young woman is difficult and requires intensive and specialized interventions. We help program participants with long-term and emergency needs including basic outreach, mentorship services, counseling, transitional housing, transportation, financial aid for college, legal and medical assistance, and much more.
As of January 2014, Awaken has already reached more than 50 women and girls, providing nearly 300 units of service. A breakdown of these services reveals that victim/survivor advocacy (20%) is the most common service provided, followed by transportation (14%), crisis intervention (12%), counseling (10%), and financial counseling (10%).
Mentorship helps our clients to know that they have someone who cares about them. It ensures them that they are not alone in dealing with day-to-day challenges and that there is someone in their corner fighting for them to succeed. Research confirms that quality mentoring relationships have powerful positive effects on people in a variety of personal, academic, and professional situations. Ultimately, mentoring connects a client to personal growth and development, and social and economic opportunity.
Young adults who were at-risk for falling off-track but had a mentor are:
55% more likely to enroll in college
78% more likely to volunteer regularly
90% are interested in becoming a mentor
130% more likely to hold leadership positions.
In order to effectively advocate for social change, our community must be involved. Through our lobbying and outreach efforts, Awaken is reaching a diverse cross-section of Nevadans from grassroots supporters to policymakers. We aim to educate and empower individuals with the information and resources they need to combat sex trafficking and CSE. Awaken offers year-round workshops and trainings for law enforcement, social service, and faith based agencies. We also perform outreach through special events and media campaigns. Through our Professional Network program, community members provide a wide array of in-kind and pro-bono services to the women and girls we serve. Awaken also works closely with the Nevada Attorney General’s office and last year helped to successfully ensure passage of the AGO’s victim-centered bill, AB 67.
As of the beginning of this year (2014) through September 3rd, Melissa, Jen and yourself have reached 1,877 people through 28 different events using a wide variety of outreach methods including street and brothel outreach, presentations at schools, colleges, hospitals, and service clubs, training workshops, prayer nights and more. Participant size for these events ranged from small groups of less than 5 to large groups of 300 people. Most recently Awaken staff conducted outreach at a University of Nevada, Reno School of Social Work event, offering future social workers information and resources.
Awaken is committed to reaching community members as a key component in the fight against commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking in our area. We cannot combat this crime alone and need all our neighbors to be informed about this egregious human rights violation happening right here in our own backyard.