hope

Survivor Snapshots

 

Here are some updates of our newest referrals and events of this month!

Miranda - Miranda is our youngest new survivor. She is 18 years old and is currently living in a facility for youth and young adults. Our team  visits her regulalry and supplied her with materials for both her spiritual and physical recovery process. We are also working with a local business to provide tattoo removal for her so she can get rid of the branding that is a constant reminder of her exploitation. We're also working  to get her approved for a home pass that will allow her to leave the facility with Christine, Shelia, or Lizendy and and have a much needed outing.  Miranda hopes to go to a local college in the spring and study communications so she can become a motivational speaker.  Her dream is to help inspire others.  To that end, Miranda is currently studying for her college entrance exams. She's a smart girl and we know she can accomplish this dream!

Isabel - Isabel came to use through a personal referral.  She is in her thirties and has been working on her recovery for the past three weeks. She's very excited about the progress she has made thus far.  Isabel came to us with nothing but has proven to be a very self-sufficient and determined woman. She is  actively seeking employment  and eventually wants to get into  real estate or accounting. She's  making  good progress in decision making and the people she is allowing in her life.  We are currently working with her to build up her resume and help find her services for her dental and physical health issues.

Leah - Leah is another young survivor of 24 who came to us through her friend who knew about our organization.  She was struggling with addition but has now completed her treatment program and is  in a transitional program facility.  Leah has a young son she is trying to build her relationship with.  We are working with her on increasing visitation and communication with her child, as well as helping her with legal services. Leah is chatty, easy to talk to, and describes herself as a hippie! Leah has some college education and wants to eventually return to school so she can be a trauma counselor.

Brenda and Katie are among our longer-term survivors, but they both have had great experiences this past month!

Brenda returned home and is living with her family again! We were all so happy to see her back and know she is safe.  Since her return she has been very actively looking for a job.  She was very determined and motivated, visiting several job fairs, staffing agencies, and interviews accompanyed by our team.  And her hard work paid off - Brenda got a job last week and she is so excited about the opportunity!  

Katie had even more exciting news: She was approved for her T-visa! She came into the office to celebrate with staff.  There was laughter, hugs, tears of happiness and cake! Katie knows that this  opened a wonderful world of opportunities for her and her family and protects her from further exploitation.  She talked of going to school, getting a good job, and her dream of owning her own business or restaurant!

Why I Volunteer - Ashley

by Ashley Hargest   

When I would hear about human trafficking, I always thought it was something that only went on in other countries. I never thought of it happening in my own backyard. When I first became aware of how much trafficking is currently going on in my own city, I couldn't believe it.

The first time I really started comprehending what human trafficking is, I was in shock, then I became angry, then my heart completely hurt for these people who aren't even treated as human beings. When I read that the average age girl who is trafficked is the same age as my little sister, something started stirring inside me even more. I can’t even imagine.

I was recently watching some videos and hearing the stories of some of the survivors in the area and I was sitting there, tears rolling down my face, feeling completely sick to my stomach. There was no way I could continue to sit on the side and not take action. As I sit here in the comfort of my own home, many victims all around me are fighting for their lives. I want to be a part of something that strives to put an end to this gut wrenching “business”. I want to be a part of something that seeks to show these victims their worth and value and to know that they are loved. This is why I’m so blessed to get to be a part of what End Slavery Tennessee is doing!

To learn more about what's happening in YOUR backyard and what End Slavery Tennessee is doing about it, watch this five-minute video.

[vimeo http://vimeo.com/61593231]

The Most Powerful Weapon

In the fight against trafficking the most powerful weapon we have is prayer!! In fact, it's the most powerful weapon we can use against any form of evil.

I must admit, though, that there are times I get so overwhelmed by the idea of young children being used as sex slaves that I just don't know what to pray. That is when I remember Romans 8:26-27...

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will. (NIV)

During my prayers for the victims (or as I call them, "innocents"), I also pray for those who work to set the prisoners free. I pray they will have wisdom and discernment. I pray for their safety. I thank the Lord for their willingness to go into potentially dangerous places to rescue the women and children.

I also include in my prayers those who work with the innocents after they are rescued. I thank the Lord for their abilities to help these dear ones to be restored to wholeness.

There are others involved in trafficking I pray for sometimes, but they are the hardest ones of all for whom to find the words...the perpetrators. I'll be honest; I do not want to or like to pray for them and I don't pray for them as often as I pray for their victims. But, maybe to some extent, they are the ones who need the most prayer. If the Lord changes their hearts and attitudes, then there will be fewer women and children who become victims of this horrendous evil.

I believe with all my heart that prayer can and does change things! Sometimes not as fast as we like, but everything is in God's timing! So, pray, pray, pray!! It's a powerful weapon!

 

This post was originally published at Nana's Notes

Survivor Stories - Adela

End Slavery TN - Survivor Stories*

Adela

 

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My mother will never receive an award for her parenting. I was always a commodity to her. Something to sell for drugs and booze as a six year old. Another hand to help her make crack in the kitchen. I have never been her child, her pride and joy. She never held me in her arms and whispered her love in my ear.

I was just Adela. The commodity. The nothing.

For awhile it felt like a blessing that she kicked me out of our apartment at sixteen. I went to live with some girlfriends and thought I’d be living the high life in the big city. Boy was I wrong about that! When the girls told me I had to earn my keep, they introduced me to a pimp. First time I saw him I thought he was fly. A real smooth talker. I felt flattered by his sexy talk and his coy smiles. But now I know, that was all just to butter me up. Get me to be his whore who’d turn tricks down at the track. Those flirty words were quickly replaced with hostile threats. If I didn’t make a thousand bucks a day, he would beat me. Or worse. One of them even cut up my face with a potato peeler just to mark me as his. It was still nothing compared to my best girl. She was killed in cold blood by her pimp, just as an example to the rest of us. "Stay in line and shut up" is what her body said.

I got sold so many times from pervert to pervert and pimp to pimp, I could hardly keep up with whose I was anymore. I was a dollar bill, folded up and passed from pocket to pocket.

I’m still not sure what snapped in me. Maybe it was having to ID my one friend down at the morgue. Maybe it was just that I was tired of being everybody’s nobody. Mostly, I think, it was that I got pregnant and I didn’t want my baby to grow up in the world I was living in. Whatever it was, I got out. I fled.

And when I was safe, I wanted to bring down every last one of them. So I talked to the feds, and I testified in court. They said I had been caught up in a major trafficking ring and that I’d still be in danger even though we got a bunch of them locked up. I didn’t care. I wanted to talk. Talk to anyone who would listen. Raise awareness about how trafficking isn’t just some foreign problem. It’s happening right under everyone’s noses in Good Ole America. This one nation under God with liberty and justice for all. Well, now that I got my liberty, I’m fighting for all those little girls like me that others can’t even see.

When I first got in contact with End Slavery Tennessee, I was a real mess. A hard life led to some real hard living for awhile. But advocacy groups like ESTN stuck with me through thick and thin. And now I’m about to graduate from college. College! Who could’ve dreamed such a thing just a few years ago?!

I was a sex slave in a slum city, but now I’m a blessed warrior with a golden ticket.

It’s like that verse in Genesis says – what they did to harm me, God used to bless me, so that many would be saved. I’m living proof that God uses the most unlikely of people to bring His own liberty and justice to those who need His deliverance

*These stories are written in the first person, even though they are not written by the survivors themselves. However, apart from the omission of names and identifying information, all aspects of the stories have really happened, right here in Tennessee.

Hannah

Survivor story: Hannah      

A true story, put into words by Pax Wiemers

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It’s always struck me as ironic that my family came to this country as African refugees in search of a better life – the American dream. None of us could have imagined the American horror story about to unfold. As a young teenager in search of acceptance, I would become the sex toy for a gang of fellow refugees. Our visions didn’t include me being prostituted for nearly eight years by my countrymen. No, my life was anything but a dream.

Trust me, little girls don’t want to grow up wanting to become prostitutes. I sure didn’t. But, I was betrayed. Coerced. Forced. Made to be that way. However you want to define it, I didn’t have a choice. That’s why I ran away. And that’s why I testified in a big trial of many of those gang members. I may not be able to undo the past, but at least I can choose my future.

During the trial I came to know several people with End Slavery Tennessee. I was very apprehensive at first because I felt like everyone was just out to use me. I was just a commodity. But they didn’t treat me that way, even though I was an absolute mess. Since I felt so alone, I had been abusing drugs and alcohol pretty hard and had racked up a not-so-little criminal record too. End Slavery never judged me though. They’ve gotten me the help I have needed in all phases of my life, even when I’ve doubted them.

Recently, a member of the gang was released, so End Slavery pulled a bunch of strings to get me moved quickly to a safe place. Not only was I at risk in this situation, but my baby boy was too. We’ve found refuge in this safe haven, but they’ve given me so much more as well. I’ve been going through their recovery program, stayed clean from drugs and booze, and have been seeing a counselor. We’ve been here several months now, and I’ve undergone a complete transformation. I feel I’ve become a new person – the one I was always intended to be. I love my boy and am so thankful he won’t grow up in an environment that turns boys into gang members who victimize girls like I was.

I don’t want to make it seem like it’s all roses though. There’s still a lot to be undone. End Slavery has been working to get my criminal record expunged, due to my status as a trafficking survivor. My record is threatening my U.S. visa as well, which also makes it hard to find me a job when I get out of this shelter. There are definitely many challenges ahead, not to mention the constant danger of being labeled a traitor or a snitch by my own people.

But one thing keeps me going. I’m not alone anymore. God gave me a beautiful son. I have friends who love me for who I am. And I have the most elusive of dreams now.

I have Hope.