This fall, we at Freedom 4/24 want to thank you. Thank you for the incredible support you’ve shown us thus far in 2014. Thank you for volunteering countless hours to raise awareness and funds to combat sexual exploitation and human trafficking. Thank you for making this an unavoidable issue and for doing your part to bring freedom and do justice. Thank you for giving; never forget that your donations change lives. Here is one example—one story from a partner organization about a hope, freedom, and justice. Krista is a 19-year-old survivor of sex trafficking. When she was 16, she met a guy through a mutual friend and began talking with him on Facebook. Based on his promises of an amazing life together Krista thought that he loved her and this created a bond between them. One weekend, he invited her to his house. When she arrived things seemed different than before. He said, “a friend is coming by and I want you to treat him well.” That night Krista was raped.
Years later, when she was introduced to The Gray Haven, an aftercare program in Virginia, she told her case manager, “I didn’t know what to do because somehow he made me feel like if I didn’t do what he said, he would hurt me or those I love.”
At first her pimp acted sympathetically toward her to make her feel she was not alone. However, that changed quickly as the threats became actions and Krista felt like her choices were limited. With time she learned the consequences of trying to leave. She started to feel more and more this was all her fault and that this was a path she had chosen instead of someone choosing it for her by force and violence. She lost her sense of self and became whatever her pimp conditioned her to be.
This continued for a two and a half years. Krista’s pimp drove her up and down the I-95 corridor on weekends to meet with his ‘friends’, and began keeping the money; buying her something to eat from the McDonald’s dollar menu only if she met her quota.
Krista felt trapped and saw no way out. She considered running away, but had nowhere to go and knew what happened to girls that tried to leave the life, she was told by others “once you are in it, it’s hard to get out; once a prostitute always a prostitute, and no one on the outside will ever see you differently.” One night Krista was told to go to a hotel room where a man was waiting for her. When she walked in it was an undercover sting setup by law enforcement. They explained to her that she was not in trouble and they were there to help. That’s when Krista met the team at The Gray Haven.
Two staff met with Krista at the scene to provide immediate care. Once she felt safe, Krista opened up about her dreams. Having missed the last two years of high school, Krista felt that college was unrealistic. Her pimp instilled a feeling of worthlessness and incompetence in her. She couldn’t imagine being accepted into any college, much less being able to afford it.
After she was reunited with her mother, she began meeting with a mentor to work on GED preparation. Soon, she will receive her GED and The Gray Haven is helping her with financial aid. She has her sights set on going to culinary school.
“I’m going to be a chef one day,” she says smiling, “I always loved the big meals me and my Mom would make. Cooking brings up really good memories.”
Because of caring individuals and people like you with a passion for freedom and justice, Krista, and others like her, are finding healing and learning to dream again. Thank you for doing your part to bring an end to sexual exploitation and human trafficking in Virginia and around the world.
When I reflect on this story and think about Freedom 4/24 I’m reminded of the words of Margaret Mead who said, “Never forget that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
As these words sink in, remember that each donation and every dollar given brings us one step closer to changing the world.
- Tim Spaulding, President