JANUARY 21, 2016
BY: KAREN COUNTRYMAN-ROSWURM, LMSW, PH.D.
Reflections on the Power of Mentoring with Survivors of Abuse and Exploitation
My name is Karen Countryman-Roswurm and I am the Founder and Executive Director of Wichita State University’s Center for Combating Human Trafficking (CCHT). CCHT provides direct survivor-centered services, education, training, consultation, research, and advocacy/public policy services. From facilitating prevention groups with at-risk youth to providing advocacy services to survivors of human trafficking, and from providing training on our Lotus Anti-Trafficking ModelTM to assisting in the development of law or policy, CCHT staff are committed to 1) preventing human trafficking 2) intentionally and effectively intervening in situations of trafficking and 3) promoting holistic prosperity among survivors. All of these efforts require relationships.
With National Human Trafficking Awareness Month as well as National Mentoring Month upon us, I have been spending additional time reflecting on the power of relationship. What has relationship meant in my life? What types of relationships or relationship dynamics have been the most helpful in my personal and professional development? Throughout my professional experiences of providing direct-services, as well as providing training and technical assistance (TTA) to Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) grantees and other providers around the country, what have I learned about the power of relationship in the lives of those who are at risk of or who have been subjected to human trafficking? What I do know is this—it is because of committed adults who were willing to step outside of themselves and pour into my life that I am the woman I am today.
Exposed to trauma at an early age due to neglect, abuse, addiction, and divorce, my life took a turn for the worst at the age of thirteen when my mother committed suicide. Without extended family supports, I spent the next three years as a displaced youth—in and out of various foster and group homes and more often than not, as a runaway and homeless youth. During this time I was alone. I felt hopeless. I often acted out of desperation.