Growing up in the Csiky home was different than the average midwestern family. Cheryl Csiky and her daughter, Julia, discuss the stories of what it was like to have trafficking survivors live in their home and become a part of their family.
Cheryl Csiky comes across as the typical friendly, suburban mother-of-three, but she is a woman with a sixth sense for spotting trafficking behavior and will stop at nothing to get people the help they need. Her passion to be an active advocate for victims and survivors of sexual exploitation both locally and in Cambodia comes from a place of personal experience: Cheryl is a human trafficking survivor.
“As an eleven-year-old child, I fell prey to boys who used my vulnerability to exploit me,” says Cheryl. “After school programs in sports and the investment of coaches helped keep me off the streets and gave me the opportunity to pursue safety and dignity.”
As a leader in Willow Creek’s anti-human trafficking ministry, Cheryl leans on personal experience when working with women and vulnerable children, but each situation she encounters is different. This fuels a continual desire to learn and research, building relationships with law enforcement, safe houses, and the FBI—all with the purpose of getting women to safety.
In 2016, Cheryl had the opportunity to serve children who were at risk for trafficking during the Super Bowl in connection with In Our Backyard. “This experience opened my eyes to the reality that so many children who leave their home to escape hurt or harm to find ‘love’ fall easily as prey to predators. They don’t always find their way back home on their own,” shares Cheryl.
The media often highlights the sensationalistic stories of those rescued from trafficking, but the presence of exploitation is much more common than most think, oftentimes happening right in front of us. “Everyone can play a vital role in caring for the children and adults experiencing this harm,” says Cheryl. “Anyone serving children—whether a pastor or a teacher or neighbor or friend—should know the signs of exploitation. We can all be advocates no matter where we serve.”
Care Center Program Manager Anne Rand wants to help people learn and recognize the subtle signs of those in vulnerable situations, “It's the sly grooming tactics towards young victims that can happen in any neighborhood at any time—and knowing the signs can protect your community, children, and family,” says Anne. “While not everyone may be called to serve in this ministry, I hope everyone can develop an awareness of the nuances of the issue. You never know the lives that might be saved.”
It starts with building trust
You don’t need to be a superstar advocate to serve in Willow’s anti-human trafficking ministry. Advocacy begins with building trust and friendships with those you encounter. Simple things like providing sandwiches or home-baked cookies to neighbors can reach across a divide and open a conversation of hope. “Acts of kindness, offering resources and support through local agencies, and providing prayer help heal the brokenness that is around us,” says Anne. “We care about both women and men (victim and victimizer) who are ensnared in the lure of this industry, and we work diligently to point people to resources that meet them where they are.”
Willow Creek is hosting a two-part training, “CSEC (Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children),” on April 24 and May 1. Click HERE for more information.
Learn more about Willow’s global partner in Cambodia, Kone Kmeng, and discover how they are protecting vulnerable children here.
To find our more about the work of In Our Backyard: http://inourbackyard.org/