Making a difference in a girl’s life can look like many things. It can look like choosing to mentor her as she grows up or teaching her how to successfully cope with the big emotions she feels from a trauma-informed perspective. Both of these, and many more, are ways that Hope Collaborative does so well. But as I started the first few sessions of the new Rising Above program this past year, I realized there was a need to teach girls something they should never need to be taught: how to stay safe in a world where being a girl automatically makes you vulnerable.
The Rising Above program was created to educate girls on the realities of human trafficking around us, ways to keep themselves and others around them safe, and to empower them to help fight human trafficking and violence. We call this group Rising Above because we want to empower them to rise above the statistics and the low standard that society has set for how they should be treated.
The first day in class, after I gave the girls a summary of what the sessions would look like, I asked them “Raise your hand if you have ever been in a situation where you felt uncomfortable and unsafe?” Every hand went up. “Now keep them up if you feel like this was because you are a girl?” Every hand stayed up. Every one. Not only was this exercise eye opening for myself, it was also the first step in breaking down the walls of a girl believing she was the only one experiencing the fear of being hurt.
Through self defense classes, teaching the girls how to use their voice, and human trafficking and abuse prevention sessions, the girls have learned several new strategies to confidently react when danger or conflict arises.
It has been incredible to have past students tell me ways they have used what they learned in Rising Above to protect themselves.
B told me she used a self defense move she learned in class after a guy grabbed her at a party the weekend before.
S told me she had used her voice to stand up for a friend who was being abused by her boyfriend.
Z told me she received a message from a “creepy guy” on Instagram and after learning how traffickers and abusers use social media to find victims, she quickly blocked and reported him.
I am so grateful for the opportunity to bring this much needed information to these girls. It has been a powerful thing to be able to champion them to become advocates to make a difference. After all, we can al make a huge impact together, no matter how old you are.
By: Rachel Allen
Hope Place Teacher
Note: All images taken prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hope Collaborative follows all CDC and state guidelines for meeting safely in person.