In this Random Nun Clip, Sister Joan Dawber talks about the stories of amazing women who've reclaimed their lives after surviving human trafficking. Hear the full In Good Faith episode IGF042 at aNunsLife.org.
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I'm Sister Maxine, and my guest is Sister Joan Dawber. She's the founder of LifeWay Network, which, since 2007, has provided safe housing in the New York City area for women who are survivors of human trafficking. With these women in this journey of healing, you've mentioned a couple of stories, but are there others who you particularly remember as having incredible strength and courage? I'm sure they all do. But any individuals in particular?
Yes, certainly. In my last year at LifeWay, before I retired from there, I worked with three particular women, and all three of them we invited to be part of a committee working on a program of mentorship. All three of them have left LifeWay. One, I went to her wedding, and she is now a mother of two children with the third on the way.
That is wonderful!
It is indeed, and a very delightful woman, and very clear about wanting to help other women who have been trafficked. Wonderful. There's another woman who-- Well the first one was trafficked from 14 years of age. She was kidnapped and moved into sex trafficking from 14. That was her background. And it was hard for her when she first came to LifeWay. In fact, she came and looked at the house and decided she wasn't coming, because she didn't want to be with the nuns. And then she came back. And that was her saving grace. She does love being with the nuns! The other woman--well, the other two--one has now just finished her bachelor's degree, and is looking at her master's degree in business administration. And has just started that actually. And she is working full time, as well as going to school. So she had this drive when she was in the safe house, she had such a drive to move beyond what had been her life. She worked and she worked, and she's still working very well indeed. She's a wonderful woman, and has great ideas about human trafficking, and is willing to share those and to see how to keep moving forward to help others. And then there's a third one who now has created her own not-for-profit. And she is working on helping women who have been trafficked to speak English, because that, she felt, was one of the major things that is necessary for anybody to actually move on from where they are. So it's English and any other kinds of needs about learning: learning how to write a resume, learning all of those kinds of things--other women who are not in programs, but she's developed these programs where everything is happening online. Everything is happening online. So she has these meetings online, which is absolutely marvelous. She came from an awful situation as well.
The women who come there and they can stay for a year in the long-term housing, are there some who at some point decide not to keep going in that year? Are there some who, for whatever reason, leave and come back at a later point?
Yes, and yes. There are some people who choose not to go on because they feel that they have reached a certain point where they want to move ahead on their own without having the restrictions of a curfew and some of those other restrictions that are part of a safe housing program. So yes, that that can take place. Sometimes there are individuals who find it so, so difficult to leave behind what has been imprinted in them. And so can't possibly see a way of living in this community way, where we try to take responsibility and care for one another. It's very hard, because her main focus is herself, which is wonderful. But at the same time, it can be very hard in living in that way.
For those who may leave--and you mentioned, some do, in fact, at a later point desire to come back--what is that like for the individual and for the people who live there?
Yeah. For the individual, I think there's really a sense of coming home. They see things differently. They understand things differently, and they take advantage of what is there for them to be able to take advantage of. And for the staff and for the sisters, it's really, "Wow, this is great." And it's wonderful that an individual should choose to return.
This transcript has been lightly edited for readability.