Decidedly Academic. Distinctively Christian.
Written by Charlene Heydorn, Founder and CEO of Redeeming Love
After a personal encounter with a young girl who was being trafficked, Charlene Heydorn founded Redeeming Love in January 2014. Redeeming Love is dedicated to providing housing and comprehensive recovery services for girls being trafficked in the U.S. In addition to housing, they provide ongoing trauma therapy, life skills, job skills and job placement to help survivors in the program. As a mother for over 20 years, Charlene understands how vital it is for young girls to have guidance and support provided in a loving home. This is why she is committed to doing whatever it takes to see that more trafficked victims have a safe space to heal, grow, and learn that their life has unique value and purpose.
At the core of every child is a deep sense of longing for love, acceptance, belonging and safety. These intrinsic needs are hardwired within the heart of every human being. Even a child raised in the most affirming, stable and loving environment will long for these things not only from home but from their community and peers as well. But for many children whose family lives and support structures have failed to meet these needs, the void is so great and they become particularly vulnerable.
We live in a world where we are becoming increasingly exposed through technology. Social media platforms allow us unlimited opportunities to engage with people often times giving us a false sense of security and connectedness. It’s a realm where people can build others up, tear people down, form relationships and carefully craft online identities. And it is in this realm that vulnerable children are easily influenced and also where predators and exploiters lie in wait.
So what do technology, social media and this yearning to belong and be loved have to do with each other? In the work that I do with victims of sex trafficking, I have seen firsthand how these things go hand in hand to become the fertile breeding ground for predators to gain a child’s trust. Exploiters have a lot of patience and will spend whatever length of time necessary to build an online relationship in which the sole goal is to discover that child’s weak points and exploit it to their advantage. The first trafficking victim that I had ever encountered had been preyed upon in just this way. As a young girl she had been abused by her father and brother, which destroyed her sense of safety and trust as well as distorted her understanding of authentic love. So, when she met her trafficker online, he only need convince her that he would provide all that she lost and craved.
As I mentioned though, even children with solid, healthy families can still be vulnerable to predators online since they are naive and searching for validation both from within and outside the home. So, what can we as parents do to protect our kids from being vulnerable online?
Of course, it is impossible to try and control every potential harm that could come to our children online. They are growing up in a quickly advancing technological world. But by doing what we can to foster environments both at home and within their social structures where they can feel safe, seen, heard and known and by establishing some firm boundaries that we remain engaged with, we can pray for God to bless our efforts and pour out protection over these human beings that are basically our hearts with arms and legs walking around outside our chest on this planet.
For more information on Charlene and Redeeming Love, please visit www.redeemingloveca.com