At a Forum on Sex Trafficking in St. Paul, MN, in June, 2015, featuring Senator Amy Klobuchar and Cindy McCain, Robin Goldman used her day off to listen and learn. She was interested in part because at her Church she’s been a long-term member of the Compassion & Justice Committee. When someone suggested sex trafficking as a new area of focus, Robin felt compelled to work on it. Listening to the speakers at the forum and to the discussion after, she heard the emphasis on responding to women and children who’d been trafficked in a compassionate way, to provide safety and to make it easier for them to seek help and to report those who had been involved in abusing/exploiting them. She recognized that as important as these goals are, after Patty Wetterling raised the need for more attention on primary prevention, Robin wanted to validate her perspective. Additionally, Robin raised the issue of what faith communities could do in terms of a compassionate and socially just response to help change the social norms in which this continues to happen.
As an audience member there, I felt the intensity of interest in Robin’s points. The support came from a range of groups who are already doing work within their communities of faith, as well as from influential business leaders like Marilyn Carlson Nelson, in addressing sex trafficking, who also recognized the potential of doing more with and through faith communities. Robin noted that after the forum several people approached in appreciation of her comment, to talk about what they were doing and to connect. She said, “What followed was a stream of emails between attendees and other members of the Compassion and Justice Committee at my church, invitations to share resources and establish some collaborative initiatives. It is exciting to expand the web of connections in this work. Partnering with others has so much more potential to expand our resources, opportunities and influence, especially given limited time.”
Robin, like many ATSA members, has a wealth of expertise and a wide network of resources she could link congregates to, but very little time. She remembered that an early influence and inspiration in her life was Fay Honey Knopp, who during her life had been a huge influence on the field as Director of Safer Society Program, then a national referral service for sex offenders seeking treatment. Robin described how gracefully Fay connected people who had shared interests in doing this work. She said Fay would often come to her saying “I need you to meet someone” and then would drag her across the room to assure a real connection. Robin recognized how that action bridges opportunities and resources in a valuable way. Now Robin is practicing being the person who identifies people who need to connect and makes sure they do. She recognizes she can’t do all the work, but she can help launch efforts by getting the right people and resources together.
With 33 years under her belt of working with those who’ve committed sex offenses, Robin knows the power in using her knowledge about sex offenders and applying it to prevention. She practices being that voice at the table who brings the information about preventing perpetration, especially for our young boys. Robin’s learned how equally important it is to work with those who work with victim/survivors, to hear their perspective and for them to hear hers and to partner on recommendations for actions and policies needed.
Robin’s story reminds us that we all have many spheres of influence in which to use our knowledge and influence to advance prevention. When it comes to making a difference in and through her church, Robin says, “I also see the opportunity in faith communities to invite a dialogue that will facilitate honest and open discussions about sensitive issues that affect all of us, including sex trafficking. I am aware that my faith community, like all communities, includes youth and adults at risk to be victimized and at risk of perpetrating sexual abuse. Faith communities can educate and support members and families to seek understanding, help and support. They can provide a place that nurtures healthy sexual attitudes and compassionate actions.”
Even if we don’t have much time to give, we can offer the resources we know of to inspire others to take action and make their work a lot easier. While the work at Robin’s church is only just beginning, she believes in building on the power of faith communities to help members rethink what we see all around us (children and adults) and to transform destructive social norms into constructive ones… to put into practice compassion and justice.
A Time to Build: Creating Sexually Healthy Faith Communities, 2nd Edition, by Rev Debra Haffner, (2012)
Robin Goldman, MA, LP, works at Minnesota Department of Corrections-Lino Lakes, where she is the Sex Offender Treatment Program Director. Robin is also an ATSA Clinical Member. PLEASE NOTE; Robin’s personal statements and opinions shared should not be assumed to reflect the views of the Minnesota DOC.
Cordelia Anderson, MA, Founder/Director, Sensibilities Prevention Services, her training and consultation business based in Minneapolis, MN has been working to prevent child sexual abuse, exploitation and sexual violence since 1976. She is a member of the ATSA Prevention Comm