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Oct. 6, 2016

StreetlightUSA … helping young girls from trauma to triumph

By Councilmember René Lopez

Sex trafficking is often thought to only happen overseas. Sadly, this is not the case. Young, American girls who are homeless or runaways are becoming victims. These girls are an easy target, and typically, become attached to a pimp who promises to take care of them and provide everyday necessities. Instead, they are forced into a life of prostitution. This lifestyle typically includes drug addiction, stress-induced illnesses, beatings and feelings of hopelessness.

In the past, local authorities recognized those committing acts of prostitution as criminals. These young girls, and even young boys, are now considered victims. Instead of being arrested, they are introduced to a victim’s advocate and provided information on resources available to assist them in getting out.

StreetlightUSA is a local, non-profit organization that provides residential housing, services and programs to assist these victims of sexual trauma in improving their lives while offering a more promising future. Its mission is “to transition adolescent girls from trauma to triumph.” Residents are referred from around the nation to StreetlightUSA through government agencies, first responders and private placement. I wanted to learn more and had the pleasure of interviewing Lea Benson, president and CEO of StreetlightUSA. Visit to watch my recent “Chandler In Focus” show with her.

The organization uses a three-pronged approach that includes direct care, prevention and public awareness. Through a holistic strategy, trauma-informed intervention programming is offered, along with services that include art therapy, mentoring, education, counseling, life skill development, structured recreational activities, victims’ rights, and advocacy services. Every story is different, and staff recognizes and addresses the individual needs appropriately.

When a young girl arrives, the basic necessities are provided. Formulated by survivors, the Choices Program is offered after two weeks and is optional. The program focuses on three phases: stabilization, growth and independence; all include corresponding programming. As each phase is achieved, the participant is presented a colorful bracelet.

To maintain and improve the various services and programs offered, donations are extremely appreciated. In collaboration with several Southeast Valley non profit organizations, StreetlightUSA will hold its 4th Annual Gala Night on Saturday, Oct 29. The event theme is “Masquerade” and will be held at Wildhorse Pass from 6-10 p.m. Proceeds go to the organization’s general operating expenses.