Women across the city of Atlanta are facing problems of marginalization and exploitation through their entrapment in the commercial sex industry. This form of bondage is the result of manipulation, force or necessity and without fail leads to a loss of dignity. Every woman’s story is different, and yet each one faces similarly complicated barriers to leaving the life. Inability to find employment, qualify for housing or develop a trusted network of support prevents many women from moving on to a new future.
How do we, as a non-profit organization working with women in Atlanta who have been marred and abused by the industry, make steps to facilitate true and lasting change? How do we address the systemic injustices and unforgiving barriers that our women face every day?
At Serenity’s Steps, the parent organization of That Grace Restored, we operate with a philosophy of ministry informed by asset based community development principles. Models of community development can usually be cast into one of two categories: needs based and asset based. Needs based community development focuses on creating programs that address perceived needs of a community, while those who practice asset based community development act as facilitators to assist a community in identifying their own problems as well as the assets already available that can be enhanced to develop sustainable solutions.
One of the most important ways we strive to incorporate asset based community development principles into our philosophy of ministry is our prioritization of offering assistance to women through authentic relationships. Community development is at its heart about the healing of broken relationships. Women exploited by the commercial sex industry suffer from broken relationships with themselves, others and many times God.
We work alongside women to assist them in identifying and utilizing their gifts and skills to reach their goals. By this method we strive to reaffirm their dignity and worth by involving them in the process of their recovery. Although structured programs do offer many women a secure place in which to heal and redirect their life, we offer women the chance to make their own decisions in a supportive environment. In this way, a woman’s relationship with herself begins to heal.
We started That Grace Restored not only as a way to continue facilitating recovery of personal worth and dignity, but as a path by which the relationship between our women and the outside world can be repaired. Women coming out of the commercial sex industry are often marginalized and judged because of their past. The system in its nature works against them. This affects their ability to find employment and to enter into a fully socially integrated life. That Grace Restored seeks to show the world the intrinsic beauty of these women and their strong creative and managerial abilities, even as they prepare to move on to other careers through their work with us.
Finally, although we impose no requirements on the women we work with to attend church or to accept Christ, we see our friendships with them as a chance to share the gospel through our actions. It is our hearts’ desire to see many women come to know Christ and the true joy of His healing in their lives. That Grace Restored offers a platform to live out our love for them as we work together to run a business, develop new product and walk together in this crucial part of their transition.
The healing of broken relationships, walking alongside women as facilitators rather than implementers of a program and affirming their personal dignity are all key principles of community development. Serenity’s Steps and That Grace Restored seek to embody these values and prioritize the needs and desires of the women with whom we work in every decision we make. We are all on the journey together. Please continue to partner with us in prayer and visit our Etsy shop
to support our women by purchasing their handmade journals.