December 8, 2015

Giving the Gift of Innocence at Christmas

Have you ever wondered if there is a fun and effective way to combine pornography prevention with the magic and cheer of Christmas?  Well, guess what? There most definitely is!

When our local Director of Development, Tiffany Voss, told me she wantedALACESE Christmas Innocence Campaign the Alabama Coalition to have an awareness tent at an outdoor Christmas festival, I agreed immediately because her ideas are always winners. But, truthfully, I had difficulty envisioning how we could appropriately feature the dark topic of sexual exploitation at a children’s event centered around manger scenes, reindeer, and candy canes.

After a little brainstorming, we came up with a formula that we felt good about. The slogan, “Innocence is a Gift” would be placed on business cards attached to s’mores kits and we would offer a well-stocked fire pit as a give-way item. We had promo cards for the book Good Pictures, Bad Pictures by Porn Proof Kids and educational pamphlets from Educate Empower Kids. We also distributed articles to adults on How Good Kids Get Drawn Into Pornography and fact sheets detailing local stats involving pornography and human trafficking.

ALACESE Christmas Innocence CampaignWe got everything set up and somehow, there amidst the Michael Buble Christmas carols, Santa Claus, and manufactured snow, an unexpected and beautiful thing happened – receptive and appreciative families became equipped and informed. Family after happy family approached our tent to collect the hundreds of s’mores kits Tiffany had prepared and to inquisitively investigate our resources. As soon as parents laid eyes on the book Good Pictures, Bad Pictures we consistently heard them exclaim, “Oh my gosh! I so need this! I am going to order this right away!” One woman was so serious about the resource that she immediately left our tent and marched through the cold weather to her car so she could order the book online that instant. Another mom said, “This is one of the most devastating issues effecting our children ALACESE Christmas Innocence Campaignyet it is one of the least talked about. Thank you so much for being here.” Indeed, we were pleasantly surprised by how many heartfelt expressions of gratitude we received. Several concerned parents automatically opened up about their grief and struggles to protect their children in a hypersexualized, device-driven, culture. Many were interested to know more about our national and local coalition so they could join the fight. At the risk of sounding dramatic, it began to feel like we were offering sustenance to hungry, grateful families.

ALACESE Christmas Innocence CampaignWe were so enriched and energized by the experience that we committed to working other venues that give us access to families with children.  So while Tiffany and I gave out free treats, resources, and a fire pit, we knew we actually went home with the greatest gift of all – the deep satisfaction of knowing that we’d shared vital, life-protecting information to positively impact children and families for generations to come.

Merry Christmas, indeed!

Melea Stephens, LPC, MMFT

NCOSE_Board Member_Melea Stephens LPC MMFT

Board Member

Melea Stephens is a practicing marriage and family therapist and an activist leader against sexual exploitation in her home state of Alabama. She is the founder of the Alabama Coalition to End Sexual Exploitation (ALACESE) and Rescue Innocence Movement, a nonprofit created to protect this generation of children from the harms of sexual exploitation through prevention, education, and legislation.

Since 2012, Melea has organized several city and statewide events and public awareness campaigns. Through the Rescue Innocence Movement and with the help of NCOSE and local leaders, she has been instrumental in the launch of the nation’s fist emergency unit for pediatric survivors of sex trafficking at UAB Hospital. Melea often speaks publicly on topics such as the public health crisis of pornography and currently serves on the advisory team for Camille Place, a residential treatment program for female survivors ages 6-19.

Melea received her BA in Human Development and Family Studies from Samford University and her MA in Marriage and Family Therapy from Abilene Christian University. She resides in Birmingham, AL with her loving husband and two children.

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