Like most teenagers, 14-year-old Cara loved social media. She met her “boyfriend” who turned out to be an older man, on the app KIK. He would pick her up from school to hang out right after her mom dropped her off and she would usually miss all of her classes. The school reported this concerning behavior to her mom, but like many sexually exploited victims, Cara denied all involvement with trafficking to assessment agencies, and even her probation officer at Fulton County Juvenile Court. Since youthSpark has a training protocol for probation officers to identify victims early, they knew she needed an intervention, so she was referred to youthSpark’s Voices program.
After participating in weekly Voices group sessions for more than eight weeks, Cara began to let her guard down and joined in conversations with other girls. Cara started to ask for help on how to communicate better with her mother and control her anger when she felt hurt or misunderstood.
Cara found herself in situations where should she would skip school and be on the run for several days. One day, she showed back up to a Voices group session, confided in the staff that she was afraid and needed help because her “boyfriend” was going to take her to Myrtle Beach for the weekend. Our team immediately put together an individual action plan for Cara. She was accepted into Wellspring Living, a partnering organization that provides a safe haven and services for victims under age 18, in which she willingly participated.
Cara started to ask for help on how to communicate better with her mother and control her anger when she felt hurt or misunderstood.
Cara had learned in Voices that she was a victim and knew her “boyfriend” did not actually love her. She wanted help so she would never experience that type of pain again. She and her mother began to repair their relationship while she received the services and therapy that she needed. After eight months in the program, Cara graduated from Wellspring Living while our staff and her friends and family cheered her on.
Today, she is still active as a Voices peer leader and offered an Alumni charge to girls at our annual recognition ceremony. (what is this?) She has encouraged other girls to understand how to reach out for help and look to the future. She tells them they are just like her and if she can do it, they can too. Cara recently received her high school diploma from Job Corp in North Carolina.