victim's own stories

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!

ESTN Library Spotlight

By Clarice Grooms, ESTN Librarian Book: The White UmbrellaWhite Umbrella

Author: Mary Francis Bowley

Published by: Moody Publishing

The White Umbrella depicts the stories of actual survivors and the work of Wellspring in aiding their recovery from the life of human trafficking. As a book of profound hope, Mary Francis Bowley recounts the actual stories of victims who have gone beyond the trauma into healing.

This book will be of interest to those who are aware of trafficking and sexual exploitation and are drawn to care for these victims.

Mary Francis Bowley is the founder of Wellspring Living.

In Her Own Words...Part 3

Karen:  Most people who are involved with the abolition of human trafficking and slavery know the horrors of this crime from books, movies, videos, on-line accounts, etc.  However, on one night in January, some of the volunteers with End Slavery TN met these atrocities face to face.  We were invited to spend a few hours with a victim of human trafficking. We sat mesmerized for two hours listening to a beautiful, courageous young woman, whom I shall call “Carrie” and what have been the horrors of her life.    She talked about her drug addicted mother and alcoholic father, and how at the early age of six, her mother told her to go into a bedroom with drug suppliers and “play doctor” with them.  “Carrie” had never been taught the values that most of us are brought up with, the value of one’s body and soul. She was a very bright, pretty girl and by the time she was twelve or thirteen, after having lived with other relatives in various places, been raped by her older brother, and abused by others, she became involved with a pimp and a life of prostitution.  Over the next five-six years she was forced to have sex with “more men than she could hope to remember.”  She was moved from city to city, was branded on her body and face, had both feet broken when thrown out of a moving car, had her teeth broken, and was beaten repeatedly for “not making her quota” or disobeying her pimp!   From the time she was sixteen, she tried to break away from this destructive life.  After being arrested and treated like a criminal, however, she would call her pimp to bail her out.  After all, who else would help her? Until one day, she encountered a woman from law enforcement who offered to help her escape.  In an agreement for testifying against several pimps, she was placed several times in foster homes or half-way houses where she was mistreated, eventually retreating to her pimp, because “at least he would feed her.”    “Carrie” has, in her early twenties, finally escaped, but at a cost.  She has been placed here in TN where she knew no one, can never go back home, can never contact her family, and fears that she will be found and killed.  She is courageously trying to begin a new life as a college student and working to help other victims.  However, it is hard!  She feels alienated from most people because of her past, feels she may never have a normal relationship with a man and has difficulty with trust.  Despite everything, she is upbeat and hopeful.   I personally came away heartbroken for “Carrie” and all the “Carries” of this world.  Most of us will never know the realities of trafficking, can never fully understand the dynamics that land victims in this path, or fully comprehend the consequences.  We can, however, learn from these victims, share their stories, come to their assistance, continue to educate others, and do everything in our power to end human trafficking.  There are laws in place against this crime.  WE have to work to ensure these laws are enforced!  Thank you “Carrie” for sharing your story and for your courage to escape and help prosecute these criminals!

In Her Own Words...Continued...

April:  At the special meeting in January of 2010, many abolitionists with End Slavery TN gathered to hear a devastating recounting of a sex trafficking victim’s testimony. Her story emphasized a common trafficking scenario that occurs here in the United States: young girls that grow up in physically and sexually abusive homes who are forced, coerced, and tricked into prostitution at a very young age (around 13 or 14 years old).    In this particular victim’s case, she was told the message very early on in life that no one is trustworthy, especially your family. Introduced to her first sexual encounter at age 6, she continued to be abused by the help of her own mother. At 14, she left home only to experience continual sexual abuse from other members of her family, and finally found herself working the streets of prostitution. She traveled across state borders as she battled between being trafficked and trying to flee. Hoping to seek refuge with her father, she was turned out and sold back into the life she longed to leave. Throughout her time in bondage, she experienced continual sexual and physical abuse from her pimps, including daily rapes and branding on her body.   Her story was insightful about the lifestyle victims are forced to have. Many women would live in the same house or apartment, either going out at night to work the streets or waiting for a customer in their home. They suffered daily abuse and threats from their pimp, succumbed to living in fear. They are taken from everything they know and are cut off from society, feeling alone and without hope. This victim was finally able to flee and is doing her part in helping educate people about sex trafficking. It was a special opportunity for the NFSTN staff, one that continues to spur our efforts in the fight against slavery. 

To Be Continued...

In Her Own Words

Members of the Nashville Volunteer group had the rare privilege of hearing, in her own words, the horrific story of a rescued victim of human trafficking, and to be inspired by her courage. Below are the accounts and reactions of a few of those present that day:

-----------

Beth: 

At first I was sure there was some mistake.

The young woman I’d just met was a vivacious, energetic college student.  She was very much like every other college student I knew, though perhaps even more passionate about life.

Could she really have been held as a slave for all of her teenage years, trafficked across multiple states, her body sold to the highest bidders, night after night?

I had the privilege – and heartbreak - of hearing her story personally, and now I have the responsibility to share her story with the hope of preventing other tragedies like this one…

****

Angel* had the misfortune of being born to a mom who was a drug addict and a dad who was an alcoholic.  She was raped at 13 by a family “friend” and later by her own brother.  When she was forced to leave home because she couldn’t pay the rent demanded by her father, she was enslaved by countless pimps, some “meaner” than others.  They at least kept her fed and clothed… as long as she followed their every command. 

Pimps became her “daddy”… sex a commodity.

She worked the “track” every night (every city has one), not able to rest until she’d earned the minimum required by her master.  Then she showered and was raped by her pimp (to make sure she wasn’t hiding any of “his” money).  If she didn’t toe the line (in any real or imagined way), she was brutally abused.  Among the physical assaults she described were: 

  • Her face and body were “branded” by one pimp leaving deep scars.
  • Her jaw and front teeth were broken from repeated kicking by pointed boots
  • She was beaten until she nearly bled to death, miscarrying her baby
  • Unspeakable things were done to her with a hairbrush.

And, perhaps saddest of all, some of her girlfriends, trapped in this hell on earth with her, just disappeared without notice, never to be seen or heard from again.  Angel knows what happened to them, though she doesn’t want to think about it. But for the grace of God, she too may have ended up in a shallow grave.

Now in her early twenties, Angel has a passion to help others.  She’s in college, majoring in social work.  And she’s pursuing speaking opportunities, as painful as it is to relive her past.  In addition to speaking to our Not For Sale community activist group, she’s also spoken to groups of young people, warning them about how easy it is to become trapped in this vicious underground world where one human being “owns” another.

Angel is out to save other girls from the nightmare she’s endured.

* Angel is not her real name. 

...To Be Continued

In Their Own Words #3: Broken Promise

broken 4 blogJust a couple of hours into the long drive from Columbus to Florida, the young girl sensed that she had made a dangerous mistake. The 14-year-old, who had pretended to be 18, admitted her real age to the people who promised to make her a star model and asked them to return her to her extended family in Columbus. The student lived in a middle-class neighborhood with her parents in another state but had been visiting family in Columbus.

Alan Townsend was enraged by the girl's plea. According to FBI records, slapped her face and told her that he was going to keep her.

Just a few days earlier, the girl encountered Townsend and his recruiter, Courtney Shine, on a social-networking page. First came a wave of e-mails, then a cell number, and then the girl met Shine in a park. Townsend typically used Shine to make the initial contact with young girls to make them feel more comfortable.

Shine assured the girl that she would be safe and everything would be "cool" on the trip to Florida. During the drive, the girl said Townsend continued to slap her and attempted to fondle her several times.

Townsend, Shine and the girl arrived in Gainesville, Fla., on June 13 of last year.

The girl was soon given a condom and told to offer sex for $150 to the first man who walked by their cheap hotel room.

"I'm a virgin!" the girl pleaded. "I'm a virgin."

The next night, the girl again refused to solicit men in a hotel parking lot and began to cry.

"Stop being a bitch," Townsend said.

Both Townsend and Shine attempted to have sex with the 14-year-old, but she again fended them off.

Finally, after a stop in Orlando, they arrived in Daytona Beach, where the girl was able to break free and use a stranger's cell phone to call police.

The girl was unharmed and returned to Columbus. Both Townsend and Shine were arrested and recently plead guilty to sex trafficking.

Now, Townsend, who admitted to being involved with at least six other girls, is serving an eight-year prison term.

"I wasn't gonna just give up, 'cause I was like, 'I brought this girl all the way down here,' " Townsend told detectives in Florida. "I might as well get something out of it."

From The Columbus Dispatch July 28, 2009

In Their Own Words #2

Chelsey lived a seemingly “normal” middle class life with her family in Georgia, but at age 10 her life forever changed when she was sold as a prostitute by her own father. Chelsey’s story is one of redemption. After her escape, she managed to graduate from high school and received a bachelor’s degree in social work from the University of Georgia. Chelsey is now working on her master’s degree. The following is an excerpt of a journal passage Chelsey wrote during her unfathomable ordeal: “As I hang from the beam of a dim, musky, cold basement, I think of as many descriptive words as possible for the body parts I loathe the most. I have endured 14 hands, 70 fingers, all the while my hands are tied. They are numb from being laced above my head and are exhausted from supporting the rest of my body. I am naked, beaten, bleeding, and alone. Sunshine creeps in through the holes in the shades and amplifies my new wounds. I am coming down from a large dose of cocaine and I hope that at least one pair of hands returns to feed me some more. I close my eyes because the drips of sun, of life hurt, and I begin thinking of names of presidents and countries. Dusk approaches with footsteps. I count 14 feet, 70 toes, returning for another round. I inhale, I exhale, I brace myself. I close my eyes, ask silently for death, and hope they have enough blow to get me through the night. I am twelve years old.”

From The Columbus Dispatch July 28, 2009

In Their Own Words

child prostitute photoFrom time to time, between my own musings here, I will post examples of actual trafficking scenarios. This will, I trust, help all of us remember that when we talk about human trafficking/slavery, we are talking about real, flesh and blood human beings , not merely cold statistics. The following is a quote; a victim's own words, describing one way traffickers recruit needy children who are hungry for someone to love and care for them: "I was 14 years old and the way the pimp came at me was that first I didn’t even know that he was a pimp. He came at me like a boyfriend. Yes he was an older boyfriend but he cared about me...6 months later he told me ‘Let’s run away together. We can have a beautiful house and family.’ And I did believe him, and we ran away and then the story changed and I met the other girls that he had in his stable. And I had to go out every night and work the streets—the alternative was being gang raped by a group of pimps while everyone watched"