ATHENS, Ga. — The Celtic cross tattoo on Shannon Martinez’s leg gives away her past.

A victim of sexual assault at age 14 and never quite able to meet her parents’ expectations, Martinez sought out other angry teens. By 16, she was a skinhead spouting white supremacist rhetoric, giving stiff-armed Nazi salutes and tagging public property with swastikas. She favored racist fashion statements – like the symbol on her right calf.

Fortified by the love of an adopted family, Martinez left the skinheads behind. Today she’s helping others do the same as part of an emerging U.S. movement that helps people quit hate organizations.

Modeled loosely upon organizations that formed in Europe years ago to combat extremism, groups and individuals are offering counseling, education and understanding to extremists seeking a way out.

Now a 42-year-old mom who homeschools her kids in Georgia, Martinez volunteers with Life After Hate, a leading organization dedicated to helping people leave white supremacy. On Facebook, she shares her story with others who’ve left or are looking to leave extremism.

“We act as a group of people who understand each other,” said former skinhead Christian Picciolini, who founded the Chicago-based Life After Hate. “We understand the motivations of where we came from and why we joined. We understand what keeps people in. And we help each other detach and disengage from that ideology and provide a support system for them as they go through that transformation.”

Founded in 2009, Life After Hate was awarded a $400,000 Justice Department grant in the closing days of the Obama administration – funding that could be endangered if the Trump administration decides to refocus a federal program combating violent extremism solely on Islamic radicals, as is being considered.

While several other grant recipients are dedicated to countering radical Muslim ideology, Life After Hate concentrates specifically on showing white extremists there’s another way.

The group operates a website where people who want to explore leaving white extremism can submit contact information. It also conducts educational and counseling programs including the Facebook group where members sometimes chat with extremists trying to change their lives, Picciolini said.

“I started the organization … because it was so difficult to leave that movement,” he said. “Even though I’d abandoned the ideology, I wasn’t ready to give up my community and my power and my identity, and I knew how hard it would be for other people to leave this type of ideology or this type of movement.”

Another group, One People’s Project, was started by Daryle Lamont Jenkins of Philadelphia. Aside from monitoring racist groups, Jenkins – who is black – confronts white nationalists at public gatherings and talks one-on-one with willing white supremacists, trying to show them there is a way other than hate. Some have never met a black, he said.

Jenkins’ work is similar to that of Daryl Davis, a black musician from Maryland who has gained notice for trying to talk people out of the Ku Klux Klan.

Mark Potok, a senior fellow with the liberal Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Alabama, said it’s hard to determine exact numbers, but around 100,000 people might be members in hate groups and several hundred thousand could be linked informally.

Potok said exit organizations began in Europe in the 1980s to counter the rise of right-wing militants there.

“I do think that this is a particularly important moment for this kind of exit work to be happening because we have seen in the last year, year and a half, a real legitimization of these views,” he said.

President Trump’s election with the support of neo-Nazis and the Klan has lent a new sense of urgency to opponents of white supremacy.

“The Trump election has absolutely lit a fire under the butts of the white nationalists,” Martinez said. “It is like, ‘Our time is coming.’ “

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