By 15, his single mother leaves him caring for his 3 year old younger brother while she works third shift. His little brother is out of control, spending most of the evenings running through the house screaming. Most of his friends are girls because he can’t seem to connect with guys. Stressed out, he turns to the internet looking for someone who cares. After dozens of conversations, he realizes he may be gay. Wanting acceptance he sits down with his mom so they can talk. Instead of being kind, his mother berates him, calling him an abomination. Later that evening, while his mother is sleeping, he packs a bag and runs away. Now at 16 he is on the streets trading sexual favors for warm places to sleep, food, clothing, cash, and the promise of safety. Two years later he shows up in our office looking for a hot meal. He is noticeably worn down by all he has experienced. He was really good at math; we got him in school where he realized he enjoyed and excelled at math. He finished his GED just before his 19th Birthday so we celebrated by taking him to hibachi lunch. He is currently attending college majoring in finance hoping to someday be a banker. He attends NA and AA meetings regularly, and has reconnected with his little brother. Loves his mp3 player. His favorite color is gray.
Saylah met a 35-year old man online who convinces her to dance for him via her webcam. Over time, he escalates the encounters having her do stripteases and dance naked for him. He tells her she is beautiful and could become a model if she wants. Since their initial meeting she has believed him to be a talent agent looking for his next super star so when he asks for nude photos she complies. When she realizes he is lying to her she tells him she wants her photos and the videos he has made deleted. He laughs at her and says he made her internet famous so she got what she wanted. Mortified she begins cutting her arms and legs. The school resource officer sees the cuts on her arms and reaches out for help. Her social worker contacted Phoenix Rising asking if we would talk to her about cooperating with police and her therapist. She loves wearing all black including her Doc Martin boots. Favorite color is blue or purple depending on her mood.
Sarah is a 17-year-old girl Phoenix Rising connected with through another community agency. Sarah was sex trafficked by a biker gang; forced into commercial sexual exploitation including stripping and pornography. With help, Sarah was able to earn her high school diploma and started college. Sarah has secured housing and has been reconnected with family. Sarah celebrates all of the little wins as she continues healing.
Frank, a St. Louis native, was 17-years-old when he came to us while living on his cousin's couch in Bowling Green. He enjoys cooking, playing video games, and basketball. He wanted a place of his own and a chance to finish high school. Phoenix Rising educated him on independent living, healthy relationships, managing money, and internet safety. He has since earned a driver's license, registered to vote, finished a year in high school, and has become more positive in his decision making.
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