Young people who have experienced commercial sexual exploitation may have certain behaviors and special needs, and it is important to understand the challenges and trauma they have faced. In this workshop, child welfare consultant and organizer Miranda Sheffield gives School on Wheels tutors the information they need to successfully tutor children and youth rescued from CSEC scenarios. She is joined by a sexual trafficking survivor, Rachel Thomas, who discusses her experience. This workshop is specifically designed to inform School on Wheels tutors who are working with or may be working with CSEC students.
About the presenters: Miranda Sheffield has spent the last 10 years working within the child welfare community. Early on, she worked with Los Angeles County DCFS to promote youth engagement and accountability with youth living in group homes. In the last five years she worked with the Children’s Law Center supporting youth in extended foster care. Miranda helped create CLC’s Peer Advocate program, giving clients an opportunity to work with peer advocates who have had direct experience growing up in foster care. She was a part of CLC-specialized CSEC team, which included attorneys and case managers providing legal and social support to youth in the life. Miranda has transitioned out of her role at CLC and currently works as a consultant, providing training to those in the child welfare community.
Former music video model and sex trafficking survivor Rachel Thomas is a dynamic educator who speaks from the heart and aims at the head. With a Masters in Education from UCLA and over 10 years’ experience in teaching and mentoring, Rachel co-founded Sowers Education Group to sow seeds of sex trafficking awareness and survivor empowerment.
Rachel was a junior at Emory University when she unknowingly met a trafficker: a professional and well-spoken ‘modeling agent’. He had business cards and a portfolio of contracts with beautiful models of all ethnicities. He groomed her with high-quality, all-expense paid photo shoots and legitimate modeling work in various music videos and magazines. Then, after he had collected a W9 form from Rachel (including her parents’ address and SSN), the relationship became dangerous. He began forcing her to have sex with buyers, threatening to kill her and her family if she didn’t obey. He became physically and psychologically abusive, ushering Rachel into the dark world of sex slavery. Thankfully, the police and FBI were eventually able to help Rachel, and the trafficker’s dozens of other victims, to escape this devastating situation. As Rachel continues to overcome and understand her experience, she is “turning a mess into a message” that will spread prevention and empower victims.
Since 2012, Rachel has reached over 36,000 live audience members and millions more through numerous media outlets including The T.D. Jakes Show, The New York Times Upfront Magazine and ABC’s Newsmakers. Rachel was also honored by Congressman Ed Royce of California’s 39th district and Los Angeles Supervisor Don Knabe for her leadership and trafficking prevention efforts. To learn more about Sowers or Rachel Thomas, please visit www.SowersEducationGroup.com.