By Jackie James

Growing up is a difficult transition in anyone’s life, but even more so if you are facing the world without a family to guide you. This is where CeCe’s Hope Center comes in; filling the void for female victims of sexual abuse and exploitation to provide much needed assistance to help young ladies move forward into adulthood with the support and services they need. By working with local law enforcement agencies, first responders, service providers, and the court system, women aged 18 to 24 can receive positive reinforcement and life direction through CeCe’s Hope Center.

CeCe’s Hope Center is a non-profit organization named after a young lady who suffered a painful childhood, but was able to successfully transition to adulthood. The goal of this organization is to give hope and guidance to other women who have experienced sexual assault, abuse, sex trafficking and other traumatic events in their youth. CeCe’s offers services like the Just-in-Time call line, (480-625-7044) where a friendly, helpful voice can offer advice and resources, to a mentorship program, where a nurturing life-coach can help guide young women through life skills. Many young women transitioning into adulthood don’t have the necessary tools to navigate job interviews, housing, and everyday tasks because they have not been shown how to do these things; the mission is to help them become self-sufficient and productive.

Experiencing any type of sexual abuse, whether it be by a stranger, a date, a family member or a trusted friend, is difficult to overcome, especially alone. CeCe’s Hope Center provides the opportunity for young women in these circumstances to take control of their lives, by learning to care for themselves and by relying on the support offered by caring mentors. Oftentimes, feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and trust issues permeate the young women’s thoughts; the Hope Center’s programs are designed to address these feelings and instill a sense of power and ownership that is rightfully theirs!

If you are a young woman who has been subjected to abuse and are in need of guidance, CeCe’s Hope Center can help. To gain more insight into the programs CeCe’s offers women of the valley, I gathered some helpful information from Chairman, Jesus “Rene” Lopez, Jr.

How long has CeCe’s Hope Center been in the valley?

CeCe’s was established in February of 2017, and launched publicly in May-2018 in the East Valley. We assist women ages 18-24, rescued from Sexual Exploitation and Trafficking.  

Do volunteers go through a particular screening process and/or training?

Depending on how individuals would like to help, some roles may require training. This training is more around awareness training on the specific population we are serving. If anyone is interested in volunteering with CeCe’s, they can sign up on our website at: 

Do you refer people for counseling or do you have them at CeCe’s?

We work with counselors in private practice either through pro-bono work, or for some participants that do have medical coverage, through referral by insurance. 

How long have you been affiliated with this program and how did you get connected with them? 

Lea Benson and I are the founders. CeCe’s was born out of a need due to fill the gap in services for young women over 18 that survived the trauma of sex trafficking. Lea and I formed the Foundation Board to develop CeCe’s Charter, Vision, and supporting operational and procedural documents to ensure we have a well-established plan and set boundaries for CeCe’s to operate within. In May of 2018 we started operations with 3 participants, and currently have 10 young women we are helping. 

From your experience, how do the participants deal with the trauma they have encountered?

Each participant deals with this trauma differently. Some feel guilty and ashamed for what happened to them although each participant’s story is different in how it started, how they were rescued, and how they deal with what happened to them. Our job is plant the seeds of hope. That through counseling, mentorship, and life skills development, they now decide their future. That from now on they get to decide how they live their life each day forward. That they have the support, skills and empowerment to stand strong and confident in themselves to make healthy and positive choices to better themselves, and our community.

What kind of support structure do you have in place to assist the participants?

We are currently actively helping our participants through 3 main pillars of support:

  1. Case management and triage to ensure the immediate needs of our participants are being met, and then follow-on longer-term planning and support, such as employment.
  2. Mentorship with other trauma survivors, that can help provide guidance, coaching and an ear to listen and a shoulder to lean on during their transition.
  3. Life Skills training in helping with resume creation, interview skills, healthy living awareness, and development of coping skills during stressful times. These will help our participants with tools to maintain healthy and happy relationships.

The fourth pillar we are working toward over the next two years, is to establish temporary living spaces for our participants, to further establish stability during their initial transition out of trauma and into happiness.