I studied the four men who sat across from me. With somber faces and heavy hearts each took a turn to speak. Any one of their stories was a lot to process; complex and convoluted. Their emotions were raw and their pain unimaginable. Each expressed the horror that only a parent can know when his daughter is exploited by the sex industry. While no two stories were identical, a certain brotherhood was beginning to emerge, the kind that develops between those who share similar pain.
There were also women in the circle, mothers who were losing daughters to this evil. Tonight was the first time they didn’t outnumber the men in the group. I had not expected this, because commercial sexual exploitation is a crime that usually befalls fatherless girls. But here was a reminder of the pervasiveness of this dark industry’s tentacles.
I sat back in my chair, not knowing what to say. For the moment, it seemed that saying nothing was the best response. This was the stuff of which third world documentaries are made: films of far-away places like Cambodia, perhaps, or the Philippines. Our society has come to uncomfortably accept that these abuses have deep roots in poverty-ridden countries, war zones, or at least places that don’t share our Christian heritage. But the parents at this meeting represented the countless other Canadian families that face such tragedy in relative isolation, shame and despair.
It was just over a year ago, that parents J & L approached me with their “Parents Hope” vision. They saw the need for a support group for parents impacted by the sex trafficking of their child. I had never heard of this kind of group before, but had already been providing individual support for a few parents who I thought might be interested. After discussing and developing our approach, and networking with other agencies, we began monthly support group meetings in May 2016, at SIM’s national headquarters in Toronto.
Pastoral care, peer support, education and prayer summarizes the Parents Hope approach. We also work individually with families to help bring an end to the exploitation and encourage the healing of relationships. While the group continues to gather momentum and its full impact is yet to be determined, the depth of gratitude already shown by more than a dozen parents confirms that Parents Hope is making a difference.
For more information about Parents Hope, please email firstname.lastname@example.org