“Eight years and hundreds of survivor stories have given us an inside look into what causes victims to be trapped into a life of vulnerability and exploitation. Sadly, our first hand experience has led us to realize the extreme need for awareness and prevention efforts with students. If we could reach our residents in a time when their victimizing life-path could be altered, we would meet them in their youth. We would tell them how precious they are, worthy of love, and work towards healing and wholeness.
Through this program, we hope to intercede in the lives of students. We hope to intercede for those who don’t go home to parents who tell them about their worth, or who caution them toward risks and shepherd them toward safe relationships. And for those in good homes, we hope to intercept what society is counter teaching. While we expect our audience to be challenged to think critically about their safety, ultimately we hope to prevent vulnerable youth from heading down a path of exploitation because of brokenness and compromise.”
Ked Frank, Founder and President of Refuge for Women
Today marks the official launch of Refuge for Women’s new student prevention program! The program aims to reach middle and high school students across public and private schools, youth groups, and detention centers. The goal is simple; to keep students safe. The adaptable curriculum will tackle the hard topics of social media, dating, sex, pornography, sexting, abuse, and the like. The conversation will bring students to consider the dangers at hand, including how today’s society makes us vulnerable to low self-esteem and self-worth, spiraling young people into a dangerous and compromising search for love and affection.
The program will be facilitated in partnership with Raise the Standard, a group already working to reach youth in Lexington, KY. We plan to reach 7,500 students in Lexington, KY, but with additional funding we’re looking to expand statewide and reach 25,000 students every school year. The program will be led by Christi Wells, who is introduced below.
I understand you’re a teacher by profession, but what brought your journey to student prevention and awareness?
I have always been passionate about youth and teaching, but never imagined I would be speaking to them about such sensitive and hard topics. The turning point for me began one night when an article online caught my eye and I began to read about a Supreme Court testimony. I learned, for the first time, about the abortion industry. I wept. How could I not have known? I asked God to use me in some way. It was no coincidence that just months later, I would be offered an opportunity to begin a program that would send speakers into schools across the county to speak on this very topic.
As I poured through research for my new position, my heart continued to break. There were so many issues that our children were facing. I felt compassion… and sorrow… and anger… for the child being sexually abused, and the young person buying the lie that love equals sex, for the teen mom who was being pressured to have an abortion and the baby who would never have a chance at life, for the young man secretly viewing pornography as a way to satisfy desires that never should have been aroused at his young age. Who was standing up for them? Being in the classroom is my chance to make a small difference and I truly hope that you will join me.
Being in this kind of work, you’ve really been able to get an inside look into the reality that our students face. Most of us are unable to see through that lens. The way you see it, why is this program needed?
In every school I speak in, there are students who come up afterwards to share their pain, regret, fears, and questions. They are willing to hear the truth but are confused as to what the truth is. They are learning from peers, music videos, movies, reality shows, online porn, prostitutes in video games, and the strangers in online chatrooms. Sex is everywhere. Teens report that what they see and hear in the media provides them most of their information about sex and dating. These sources make dressing sexy and casual hook-ups seem like the norm.
1 in 5 children will be approached by a sexual predator online. Do they know the red flags to look for to avoid becoming a victim? If they are a victim, do they know that it is not their fault?
15-to 24-year-olds account for nearly half of all STD diagnoses each year. Do they know that STD’s can be transmitted without having sex and that, many times, there are no symptoms to indicate that you have one? Do they know that sex was created to be experienced within the confines of marriage?
The biggest users of online pornography are 12-to 17-year-old boys. Do they realize how it will change the neuronal pathways in their brain and change the way they view women everywhere? Do they know that pornography drives the demand for sex trafficking, which is a federal crime?
On average, music videos contain 93 sexual situations per hour. Has anyone told them that they can do better? That real love looks more like respect than a fulfillment of one’s sexual desires?
Tell us, what makes this program unlike any other?
This program is unique for several different reasons. First, the speakers come with an incredible amount of experience, talent, and personal testimonies. For example, DeWayne Smithers is an author and spoken word artist who has spoken to thousands of students in many different countries sharing his testimony. He lives here in Lexington, Ky and presents with the Raise the Standard program. The students can relate to him in the classroom because he has faced what many of them are secretly hiding…. walls come down when he speaks. Treva Parks has over 10 years of experience speaking to students about STI’s, dating, pornography, and sexual abuse. We currently have 5 other speakers and all are Christians and passionate about helping today’s students.
Also, our curriculum is able to be adapted to meet the needs of every school, whether it be public or private. We have a different curriculum for each grade level that includes statistics and up-to-date information, personal experiences, spoken word art, videos, illustrations, and varying levels of classroom discussion and involvement. The speakers are prepared to speak in a broad number of venues, from schools and colleges, to churches and detention centers.
We will be able to relate dating, safety, and trafficking together in a way that will help students see beyond their current situation and understand that their decisions today hold dangers and consequences for them tomorrow. We hope they will be able to spot red-flags of early abuse and have the knowledge to be able to seek help or speak up for a friend. We will talk to them about what a healthy relationship looks like. We will encourage them to set healthy personal boundaries for themselves and give them an opportunity to come up with strategies to do so. For private schools, we will present our material from the Biblical perspective, as the source of truth. This is not your typical educational program. From the moment we step into the classroom, we make sure that they know that we care about them, the decisions that they make, and the person that they become. We are sensitive and mindful of the fact that there will be, most likely, at least one victim of abuse or sexual abuse in each classroom. We will not only present the dangers, but also give hope by providing each student with a list of who they can reach out to for help….. from community organizations to other ministries that will provide counsel and healing from a Biblical perspective. We will inform each student of Refuge for Women and how to contact our ministry if they know someone that is involved in sex trafficking.
Tell us more about yourself!
I am a singer, educator, wife, and mom of four children. My childhood years were spent in Louisville, KY and North Carolina. After attaining a bachelor of science degree in Music Education, I completed an MFA in Dramatics and Speech Communication. In 2002, my education experience began with teaching college classes while receiving my MFA. I then accepted a position as the Performing Arts Director at a Christian school in Nashville, TN where I taught music, drama, speech and choir. Shortly after beginning my teaching career, I married the love of my life, Kyle Wells. We enjoyed living in Music City, but eventually moved to Lexington, KY where we achieved two dreams: Kyle became a Chick-fil-A Owner/Operator and we began our family. My husband and I worked together in those early years. I became his Marketing Director and the baby and I spent many hours in the back office of our new Chick-fil-A. Even though my heart was to be a mom, God had plans for me to return to the classroom…. just in a very different way.
My paths crossed with a woman named Cindy McDaniels, who, at the time, was the Director of Assurance Pregnancy Care Center. She shared her heart for students in Lexington, KY. God was working in me through her story, and I joined the Assurance staff in 2012. Cindy and I worked together to cast the vision for the Raise the Standard program. In miraculous ways, God opened doors for us to go into the schools with truth, hope, and healing. Over the next five years, we reached over 6,000 students, presenting in every public and private high school in Fayette Co., as well as middle schools and church youth groups. With the blessing and support of Assurance, the Raise the Standard program is moving to be hosted and led by Refuge for Women. It will remain committed to the same principles of faith and practice, but will be positioned for some incredible growth opportunities.
Now with over 12 years of experience in education, I am honored to have the opportunity to lead this program at Refuge for Women and continue to educate and impact students across central Kentucky.
How do you hope this program will impact young people?
I hope this program will impact students by allowing them a space in time to be real and honest about their own struggles and the “hush, hush” topics of society. I want them to hear from our speakers who will share with them that there is healing from abuse and brokenness and hope for their future.