Since 2017, NBWJI has provided trainings as a part of the CSEC (Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children) Training Initiative in Los Angeles County. These trainings teach understanding trauma and how to develop healing-informed responses for service providers working with children and young adults who are survivors of commercial and sexual exploitation. Falilah “Aisha” Bilal, NBWJI Senior Trainer, leads these trainings as a part of the Los Angeles Probation County Initiative with Nola Brantley, a nationally recognized advocate, leader, and survivor of the Commercial Sex Industry.
This year alone, Falilah has trained over 1,000 probation officers, social services staff, and medical professionals — and more than 2,000 individuals since 2017 – about how to create healing-informed spaces for CSEC.
She joins us today to tell us more.
Nicole Kenney: Hi, Falilah! Let’s start with you telling us more about the LA County CSEC Training Initiative.
Falilah Bilal: Hi, Nicole! Yes, I lead an educational and interactive training titled, “Commercially Sexually Exploited Children and Trauma, Responding to the Trauma of CSEC Survivors”. Nola Brantley is a nationally acclaimed advocate who has played a significant role in spearheading the Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking / Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children awareness and advocacy movement in the state of California since 2001. Her advocacy led to a partnership with the Los Angeles Probation Department under the leadership of Michelle Guymon, to expand their efforts to serve CSEC. NBWJI was invited to become a partner with the CSEC Training Initiative.
NK: What are the objectives of the LA County CSEC Training Initiative?
FB: We teach probation officers along with social services and direct services providers about 1.) The critical concepts associated with trauma among CSEC survivors; 2.) Policies and practices that support the development of a trauma and healing-informed lens within the juvenile justice and CSEC-response continuum; 3.) The intersections between race, class, and victimization as considerations for the development of healing-informed spaces; and 4.) How to mitigate the impact of vicarious trauma, compassion fatigue, and burnout that may occur as a consequence of this vital work.
NK: Can you walk us through a day of your training?
FB: Absolutely! I conduct these trainings as frequently as every month. It typically begins at 8:00 am and ends around 4:00 pm. Our trainings are always at full capacity, averaging from 100 to 150 people each training. We start with a lecture on understanding CSEC survivors, trauma, and the brain. We then transition into experiential learning, which focuses on applying the information learned in the first half of the day. As a drama therapist, I use my background to empower providers to tap into their emotions and apply their own emotional wisdom to unpack their own experiences with trauma and how this knowing can assist them to better serve survivors of the commercial sex industry. From there, we segue into understanding the trauma of the CSEC survivors in the communities we serve. This exercise allows participants to understand their own experiences and the experiences of CSEC survivors better. We also teach and practice strategies to heal from compassion fatigue and vicarious trauma, which often occurs to providers when they are not equipped with the resources to refuel and regenerate.
NK: That indeed sounds like a transformative experience. Can you share some of the most common reactions to your training?
FB: Yes, it truly is transformative. Often, my attendees reveal how the training not only equips them to understand trauma but also explore their own experiences with trauma. Many of them also acknowledge they now can recognize and understand the power dynamic that shows up in their own services provision. For instance, one probation officer revealed he has been insensitive to the trauma of boys in a juvenile center because he never processed his own. He knows better, and now he will do better.
NK: That is powerful, Falilah. How do you know if your training has achieved the desired outcome?
FB: Honestly, by stories like the one I just mentioned. I know I have been successful if, by the end of the training, my participants have a better understanding of trauma and how it shows up in the brain of young children who have been exploited; are able to reflect on their service provision and how to improve it; have a working knowledge of how intersectionality informs their work, and have a deeper understanding of how social constructs like capitalism fuels the trafficking industry. My job is to fight for commercially and sexually exploited survivors and empower our providers to coordinate healing-informed responses that are rooted in compassion and love. Over the past two years, I am so proud to have trained over 2,000 service providers. That’s only the beginning; I am looking forward to training thousands more!
NK: Thank you so much, Falilah, for talking with us about this fantastic work. How do people contact you if they want to request a training or learn more information?
FB: My pleasure, Nicole. Yes, if you want to learn more or are interested in hosting a training, I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.