My Life My Choice
About This Program
Target Population: Girls ages 12-18 who have been exploited or are at high risk of being exploited
For children/adolescents ages: 12 – 18
My Life My Choice offers a unique continuum of services spanning youth service provider training, prevention groups for vulnerable adolescent girls, case consultation, and survivor mentoring to young victims of commercial sexual exploitation. My Life My Choice aims to have a significant impact on a hard-to-reach population by employing survivors as group leaders, trainers, and mentors. Their first-hand accounts of victimization have informed group and training curricula and are the voice of authenticity to girls entrapped in a life of abuse.
The goals of My Life My Choice (MLMC) are:
- Make it understood that girls have a fundamental human right to live their lives free from commercial sexual exploitation, without fear that adults will prey on their vulnerabilities
- Support survivors in rebuilding their lives, finding their voice, and becoming leaders
- Empower youth to protect themselves from the commercial sex industry and its predators
- Decrease the incidence and severity of commercial sexual exploitation of girls, with a primary focus on the Greater Boston area
- Prevent commercial sexual exploitation of girls by empowering them with the knowledge and skills to reduce their risk of exploitation
- Increase identification of youth who are being commercially sexually exploited by training service providers to recognize the signs that a girl is being victimized and know how to respond
- Improve the community response to girls who have been commercially sexually exploited
- Improve practice nationally to prevent and intervene in commercial sexual exploitation of girls
- Educate and mobilize a powerful network of allies to prevent exploitation
The essential components of My Life My Choice include:
- Survivor Mentoring:
- My Life My Choice pairs Survivor Mentors with exploited girls to encourage their use of existing supports and support their exit from the commercial sex industry and their pimp/trafficker.
- Girls are identified through a variety of sources, including law enforcement, child protective services, medical providers, clergy, etc.
- The Survivor Mentor’s intervention seeks to stabilize a girl’s situation shortly after identification, thereby decreasing the likelihood that she will run during this time; and provide support, motivation, and hope to the young woman consistently over time.
- Survivors are uniquely able to decrease a victim’s sense of isolation and support her as she builds a new life for herself.
- Through this relationship, mentors seek to provide girls with the intangibles they thought a pimp would offer them: love, acceptance, belonging, and a person who is on their side, but without asking for anything in return.
- Prevention Education and Solutions:
- This encompasses shifts in behavior, attitudes and skills by implementing My Life My Choice Prevention Curriculum, which provides a concrete method for preventing commercial sexual exploitation among vulnerable adolescent girls.
- These groups are offered weekly to groups of 8-12 girls in congregate care settings, schools, and other community settings.
- Considered to be secondary and tertiary levels of prevention, groups teach at-risk girls how to recognize and avoid the recruitment tactics of pimps and find a path out of exploitation if they are already involved.
- The groups are designed to change girls’ attitudes and perceptions of the commercial sex industry, as well as build self-esteem and personal empowerment; the curriculum includes interactive activities, journaling, and education on healthy relationships.
- Additionally, My Life My Choice aims to shift practice and policy by building organizations’ capacity for impact through needs assessment and advanced trainings.
- Through ongoing strategic partnerships, My Life My Choice is moving towards enacting sustained, systemwide change on a large scale by offering consultation around best policies, implementation, and sustainability.
- Training for Youth Service Providers:
- My Life My Choice offers introductory and advanced workshops and trainings about the sex industry and its devastating impact.
- Each 10- to 30-person group training is tailored to an organization’s needs and its role in the lives of adolescent girls.
- Audiences can include, but not be limited to, law enforcement, school personnel, and medical providers.
- Full-day trainings include the foundation of Commercial Sexual Exploitation, focusing on explaining the risk factors for sex trafficking, red flags indicating exploitation, and how to support exploited girls; a Residential Leadership Institute: An Advanced Training for Leaders on Creating a Safe, Effective and Supportive Environment for Sexually Exploited Girls and an Advanced Clinical Training designed for mental health professionals and clinicians to develop skills and strategies to provide effective clinical services to commercially sexually exploited youth.
My Life My Choice directly provides services to children/adolescents and addresses the following:
- Girls who have been identified as having been exploited, are currently being exploited, or are deemed high-risk for exploitation because of their past trauma and/or abuse histories combined with behaviors such as frequent running away, and potentially dangerous/exploitative relationships.
Survivor Mentoring Program: Most mentors meet with their mentees weekly for an average of one to two hours. Exploitation Prevention Groups: Facilitated weekly by two certified facilitators, for 10 weeks. Each group session lasts approximately 90 minutes. Modifications are available for shorter term settings.
Mentors and mentees have an ongoing relationship over a period of years, on a case-by-case basis. Exploitation Prevention groups are run for 10 weeks.
This program is typically conducted in a(n):
- Adoptive Home
- Birth Family Home
- Community Agency
- Foster/Kinship Care
- Residential Care Facility
This program does not include a homework component.
My Life My Choice has materials available in a language other than English:
For information on which materials are available in this language, please check on the program's website or contact the program representative (contact information is listed at the bottom of this page).
Resources Needed to Run Program
The typical resources for implementing the program are:
Sites are also required to have a commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) policy in place before a group can begin. Additional resources include general supplies for group sessions.
Education and Training
Prerequisite/Minimum Provider Qualifications
Survivor Mentors need to be survivors of the commercial sex industry and are trained to be experts on mentoring and commercial sexual exploitation of children. The My Life My Choice Exploitation Prevention groups must be co-facilitated by a survivor of the commercial sex industry and a clinician/licensed mental health expert.
In order to implement the My Life My Choice Prevention groups, identified staff need to attend the My Life My Choice Prevention Curriculum Training to become Certified Facilitators. Facilitators receive a copy of the curriculum and membership in the Online Provider Community as part of this training.
There is an application process to attend this training. Agency Administrators need to approve attendance at this training and support the groups taking place at respective agencies. Certified Facilitators are required to sign a Certified Facilitator Agreement as part of the training and make a commitment to submit group data. In return, they will receive data reports on each group facilitated.
Education and Training Resources
There is a manual that describes how to implement this program , and there is training available for this program.
- Nikki Valila
phone: (617) 779-2179
- Amy Corbett, LMHC, Prevention Contact
phone: (617) 779-2179
Training is obtained:
On-site at Boston location. My Life My Choice is available to travel nationally to provide trainings. Training is required in order to facilitate the My Life My Choice Exploitation Prevention Curriculum.
Number of days/hours:
This varies depending on the type of training and the agency requesting training.
Relevant Published, Peer-Reviewed Research
Currently, there are no published, peer-reviewed research studies for My Life My Choice.
Goldblatt Grace, L., Bright, K., Corbett, A., & Morrissey, A. (2018). Preventing the commercial sexual exploitation of children: The My Life My Choice model. In A. Nichols, T. Edmond, & E. Heil (Eds), Social work practice with survivors of sex trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation. New York: Columbia University Press.
Date Research Evidence Last Reviewed by CEBC: April 2018
Date Program Content Last Reviewed by Program Staff: April 2018
Date Program Originally Loaded onto CEBC: April 2013