Ever since writing My Peace I Give You: Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints, I have sought to give talks to those most in need of healing from childhood abuse or trauma. Last week, I had a unique and beautiful outreach opportunity when Philadelphia's Project Dawn Court, which helps convicted prostitutes rebuild their lives, invited me to address its graduates. Catholic News Agency reporter Elise Harris interviewed me afterwards and wrote a beautiful story that appeared online today, "Women with prostitution charges find compassion, new start":
A Philadelphia treatment court has been praised for offering hope and healing to women seeking to change their lives after being repeatedly charged with prostitution offenses.
“I think its a tremendously helpful approach,” author and speaker Dawn Eden told CNA in a July 11 interview.
“When I heard the graduates give their stories, stories of healing and hope, I really felt the presence of God in the room.”
Eden gave the July 9 commencement speech to the women graduating from Project Dawn Court. The initiative is designed to help women with repeat prostitution offenses and is modeled off of the highly successful Philadelphia Treatment Court, which was founded in 1997 to help reduce drug crimes. ...
The women involved in the treatment court receive counseling for past sexual abuse as well as drug or alcohol addictions as needed, checking in with the judge who is monitoring their progress every month or so. The participants who stay clean for one year graduate the program, and if they stay clean for another year, they will have the opportunity to get their prostitution convictions expunged.
Eden, who flew to Philadelphia out of her own pocket to give the speech, was very excited to speak with the graduates, saying that “I could relate a lot of it to my own experiences as a victim of childhood sexual abuse.”
She emphasized that “nearly all of prostituted women have suffered childhood sexual abuse,” and that many who were abused became homeless, and turned to prostitution and drugs when they were already on the streets.
“There's this misconception that prostitutes who are drug addicts became addicted to drugs first and then took to prostitution in order to feed their habit,” Eden said.
However, “in nearly every case, these are women who first suffered sexual abuse in childhood, then became homeless, were preyed upon by someone who sexually exploited them.”
“A pimp, and then this pimp, after abusing and prostituting them, got them addicted to drugs so that they would become even more dependent upon the pimp, and not get away.”
Eden was clear to mention that although these women are responsible for their actions, they have continually been victimized, and need compassion more than another jail sentence. ...
Eden, who hopes to continue speaking in venues such as the Project Dawn Court, finished her speech by telling the graduates that “the key to healing is not to forget your past, but to find moments in your past when someone did something kind for you...when someone protected you, smiled at you, performed an act of love for you without expecting anything in return.”
She encouraged them to find those good memories in their lives, and to build their identity on those, “because your identity is as a beautiful and beloved daughter of God.” [Read the full story on Catholic News Agency's website.]
The full text of the address I gave to the Project Dawn graduates is available online via Matt C. Abbott's column.
If you would like to learn where I'll be speaking next, or inquire about sponsoring a talk, see the "My Peace Tour" section of The Dawn Patrol.
My trip to Philadelphia to address the women of Project Dawn Court was made possible by the generosity of Dawn Patrol readers who have donated to support my making mission trips. If you are one of those donors, I want to thank you again, very much, for your support; know that you remain in my prayers every day.