When I had the wonderful opportunity to live with 5 young women in a restorative home for human trafficking victims, I had to sit back and watch a sweet young women go back to the streets. It was one of the most heart wrenching experiences of my life.
Victims of sex trafficking are so broken, that they cannot think logically. They have been manipulated, used, lied to and abused. There is no hope, no future, and no past. They think very literally. What they know: they are made to use their bodies to make money.
Most victims choose to come to a home or a shelter as a last resort. The other options may be jail, detention center, or an eminent death situation. Not much of a choice, right? (Having any type of choice is new to them.) Yet the idea of the unknown to the victim, can still be a difficult and scary choice. Even after they find safety, love, peace, the choice of staying and dealing with pain, hurt and lies they believe can become more and more difficult. The younger they are when trapped into ‘the life’, the harder it is for them. They are emotionally and mentally the same age as when their life was stolen from them.
Operating a comprehensive restorative home is a difficult balance of structure and choices/freedom all wrapped in love, much like parenting. Yet, you cannot make them stay. They are legally old enough to go out on their own, or more accurately, run away.
I knew ‘April’ for only 4 days. She was the sweetest and most open girl staying in the home. April had been sold by her mother at age 8 and is now about age 26. She has had five kids during her time of being trafficked by a few different traffickers. 2 different pimps have branded her: one tattoo on her neck and one on her wrist. Her body is so broken and damaged from years of abuse. She came to the home, because she was so tired, worn, addicted to heroin and no longer under someone’s control (she was physically used up).
April was struggling each day with the difficulty of having to deal with her painful past. She was frustrated that it was harder to stay, when it was so easy for her to come in the first place. For 2 weeks she had been working on a collage and writing out her thoughts and feelings that went with it. She had completed it on Wednesday. She had dumped out so much from inside her, that she was overwhelmed with those feelings. She wanted to run away from them. So, on Thursday, those frustrated feelings gave way to saying she was done. She wanted to run back to the streets and get ‘high’ and not have to fight to live anymore. The pain and anger on each of the other four women was almost as unbearable to watch as April leaving. It was a heartbreaking day. The darkest day.
You can read what April wrote below.
On that Sunday before, she chose to ask Jesus into her heart at church. Make no mistake, the enemy of our souls was not going to let that slide. The spiritual warfare is constant in these homes. A fight to keep them destroyed. But the time she spent in the home, the love she experienced, the peace she felt, the relationships she made, and her learning of who God was to her, was not lost. Her body will not last much longer on the street. I pray that she will call out to Jesus and find comfort and rest in his arms once and for all.
I leave you with her huge collage. You can just begin to feel bits of her pain and chaos in the images. She worked long and hard to write out her thoughts. (She could barely read or write.) It is over 3 feet by 3 feet.
Not giving up,