ASSIGNMENT: Help a former victim of human trafficking who has completely turned her life around and is now about to graduate college, eager to start a new life for her and her daughter, while helping others escape from the horrors she endured.
REFERRING OFFICER: Undercover Columbus Division of Police detective currently assigned to the Central Ohio Human Trafficking Task Force, whom we will call "Detective D."
We have the honor of presenting this Assignment from a dedicated and compassionate professional. We will let Detective D introduce the Assignment, "I have been a police officer for over 21 years. The majority of that time I have had the privilege of investigating Human Trafficking crimes. Privilege might seem like an awkward word to use for such a heinous crime, please let me explain. Through these difficult investigations, I have met hundreds of victims from many different backgrounds. All of these victims are courageous, tough minded and have persevered through some of the worst childhoods anyone could imagine.
"Over the years I have stayed in touch with many of the victims from my investigations. It is always good to see them on the right path and doing well. One particular victim I have stayed in touch with and mentored over the past several years. She has overcome many difficulties from her past and is currently a single mother. Her story of perseverance is amazing and now she is about to graduate from college this May! In addition to that, she will soon be starting a job with a Child Protection Agency here in Ohio. She is determined to make a difference in the same system that failed her. Seeing her doing so well gives me continued strength to show up at work everyday and do what I can for these victims. Her story is amazing, I’m proud of her and that is why I’m privileged to request a Starfish Assignment in her name."
We'll now allow this soon-to-be college graduate to tell her story in her own words:
"Hello! I am twenty-four years old and I am about to graduate with my Bachelors of Social Work. Getting to this point has been anything but easy. It’s been a journey to say the least. Growing up, I went through a lot of things that a kid shouldn’t have to go through. I was sexually abused and exploited, and I watched abuse and violence hurt a lot of people that I love.
"At 16, I attempted suicide and at 17, I was trafficked by a massage parlor in Columbus. As I entered “adulthood,” I was already carrying so much pain and holding a lot of negative beliefs about myself, other people, and the world. I didn’t really care about myself or what happened to me. I started using drugs more frequently, I exploited my body at times, and I surrounded myself with people who hurt me. Trauma continued to occur in my life and it became a vicious cycle that I felt trapped in.
"When I was 20, I moved in with another family member and the same cycle of trauma that had been so constant in my life continued to repeat. There was violence, drugs, and exploitation. While living there, I became pregnant. Looking back, I think God knew that I needed a reason bigger than myself to leave, so He gave me one.
"I left my family and not long after, I left the life completely. I ended up in a shelter in a new city I had never been before. I stayed there for about four and half months before moving into transitional housing and giving birth to my beautiful little girl. After I had her, as much as I wanted to be okay for her, I was still struggling with my past. Eventually, it caught up to me and I had a mental health breakdown. That was my bottom. I realized that in order to be the mom she needed me to be and give her the life I wanted for her, I had to work through all the pain I was carrying around. So, I dove into my healing journey.
"In the past few years, there have been a lot of people who have helped me. I receive counseling and advocacy services at a Trauma Recovery Center. I have met other supportive survivors, some of whom I have developed amazing friendships with. During my recovery, I finally realized that I am and always was worth putting in the work for, I just didn’t know it back then.
"I am proud of how far I have come and where my life is now. A couple years ago, I started doing advocacy for trauma recovery. I also began fighting for justice and was reconnected to the detective who had my case when I was 17. He has been a major support and helped me find my passion [to fight against] human trafficking.
"I am also proud to say that I have been able to build a life with my daughter where she is safe, happy, and free to just be a kid. She won’t ever have to see her mom go through the trauma I went through in my past and more importantly, she won’t ever have to go through those things herself. I broke the cycle.
"After my graduation on May 1st of this year, I will be a social worker at Children Services. I want to help children and their families, whose lives have been touched by trauma. I want to be the person I needed growing up. I am also a member of an anti-human trafficking coalition and plan to continue raising awareness, educating, and advocating. I’m excited to see what else God has in store for my life and I am so thankful to be where I am. I am also extremely thankful for all the people God has put in my life to help me along the way."
We ask for your donations to help this remarkable young woman and her daughter in this new phase of their lives. Thank you for your support.