Spring 2024

Spring 2024

Her Name is Lilly

Her favorite color is purple and her favorite era is Red. Her nails are neatly trimmed and show her school spirit, especially on game days when she puts extra heat on the ace she’s serving to the other side of the volleyball net. 

Her name is Lilly. 

She plays volleyball, loves sleepovers, and is thinking about college. She is valued and loved. Her whole future is ahead of her, and all of us at Jonathan’s Place are immensely proud of this remarkable young woman for the progress she’s made in her journey toward healing.

We met 15-year-old Lilly when she entered our RESET (Restoring and Educating Survivors to Empowerment and Transformation) sex trafficking program. She was significantly at risk for being groomed and scouted for sex trafficking because of the highly inappropriate conversations she was having with strangers online. 

Worldwide, two out of every three child trafficking victims are girls. In the United States, trafficking most frequently occurs at hotels, motels, truck stops, and online. By some estimates, 55% of minor sex trafficking victims are recruited on online platforms, primarily through social media. These traffickers will befriend them and then ask for photos or videos in exchange for money or gifts. 

Though there are known risk factors that lead to child sex trafficking, that is not the full story. The truth is, and as we’ve seen at RESET, any child can be a victim of sex trafficking, regardless of gender, age, neighborhood, and family income.

In fact, traffickers are often adults the child knows or is close to, including friends, family members, and romantic partners. In some cases, a child could be trafficked and exploited from their own home.

Sex trafficking “is not a white van pulling up and kidnapping kids off the streets,” says Roshanda, the program director of RESET. “It could be a favorite math teacher, a best friend, a schoolmate, even a family member.” 

Lilly had been living with her aunt and uncle before she entered RESET. Her aunt had adopted her years ago, but wanted to terminate her custodial rights. She believed that Lilly was intentionally seeking out relationships with strangers—that the girl was willful and flirtatious. And Lilly? She didn’t want to return to their home, either. 

“It was toxic,” says Roshanda. “Something was missing there, and without it, the girl was chasing something else.” 

At Jonathan’s Place, we recognize the need for trauma-informed services to help victims of child sex trafficking experience healing. We founded RESET (Restoring and Educating Survivors to Empowerment and Transformation) with these vulnerable girls in mind. 

The RESET program provides a loving and safe home for girls up to age 18. This three-month program allows the girls access to resources such as crisis intervention, basic needs, case management, life skills, behavioral therapy, outreach, and after-care. 

Roshanda, who the girls call “Mama Shan,” has a special place in her heart for the girls. She and the RESET team often take them on outings, from tea-times and the Nutcracker, to Six Flags and snacks at the park. The purpose of these outings is to show the girls how to socialize and interact in healthy ways—and all of these outings are made possible because of donor support.

On a recent trip to the mall, Roshanda gave the girls a small allowance to spend. When they met up a few hours later, she asked them what they had purchased. She followed it up by asking, “Now did I ask you for anything in return? Did I ask you for a picture? Did I ask you for a favor?” 

She wanted the girls to learn that it’s okay to receive nice things, but that these things should never be transactional—that if you want something, you are capable and hard-working and can get things on your own. 

Rashonda asked again, “Do you owe me anything?”  The girls were quiet for a moment, until one of them said, “Mama Shan, I get it now.”

“In RESET,” says Roshanda, “we build them back up.”

Roshanda says that as Lilly settled into RESET, she started sharing more about what was going on in her household and some of the pieces started falling into place. Lilly remembered a lady sometimes visiting their house when she was younger, but she didn’t know who that lady was. Her aunt had told her that her mother lived in another state, addicted to drugs, and that her biological father was in prison. 

As the weeks progressed, Lilly’s aunt and uncle stopped participating in the mandatory therapy sessions provided by Jonathan’s Place. They petitioned the court to terminate their custodianship of Lilly, and refused to let her go home with them once she was discharged.

Lilly was making a lot of progress in RESET, but with her discharge date quickly approaching, she no longer had a place to call home. Roshanda began reaching out to our partnering agencies to learn more about Lilly’s situation—there had to be more going on than what she was aware of.

Because there was still so much uncertainty about where Lilly would go once she left the program, Jonathan’s Place was able to extend Lilly’s stay for an additional 90 days. Thanks to the support of friends and donors, Jonathan’s Place is willing and able to do what is needed to help meet the unique needs of the children and youth we serve.

In the meantime, Roshanda discovered through our network partners that Lilly’s mother had been trying to get in touch with her for years. Not only was her mother clean—and had been for quite some time—she was living and working in Dallas. 

Soon after that, in an online meeting arranged by our family therapy team, Lilly met her mother for the first time. For Lilly, everything suddenly came into focus: she immediately recognized her mother as the mysterious woman who had visited her during the happier moments of her early childhood. 

The two had regular family therapy sessions after that joyful introduction, and her mother even invited Lilly’s grandfather, whom she had never met, to attend one of these sessions. For the first time in a long time, Lilly felt seen and heard and unconditionally loved. To her, this was exactly the home and the family she had been looking for.

When it was finally time for Lilly to be discharged from RESET, Roshanda and the rest of our team were overjoyed as the mother and daughter were finally reunited in person. “It was a waterfall of emotion at Jonathan’s Place,” says Roshanda. “There was not a dry eye anywhere.” 

Today, Lilly is thriving. Now, when she looks over into the stands at her volleyball games, her mother is there, cheering her on.

Roshanda recently chatted with Lilly about how things were going. “They had their struggles, she told me, but they’re adjusting.” Lilly has a new perspective on life, and the chances are extremely low that she’ll engage in the risky behaviors that made her vulnerable to sex trafficking. She has the support of a whole community rallying behind her, and best of all, she has learned to love herself again. 

Her name is Lilly, and she is why we do what we do at Jonathan’s Place. 

This spring, we are asking supporters like you to consider making a donation to Jonathan’s Place to help girls like Lilly have the safe space they need to transform their lives. Your gift, in any amount, will help us fulfill our promise to provide a safe place, loving home, and promising future to kids who have experienced abuse, neglect, and trauma. Please click here or below to make a gift today!