January is National Human Trafficking Awareness Month and every week in January we will highlight the story of a courageous survivor. This Corner is dedicated to their stories of strength, and triumph. We aim to support survivors by giving them a voice. All names and identities will be changed unless given the approval of the survior.

It started off innocent enough I guess…I never really had a real boyfriend. He started off by liking all of my pictures, telling me how fine I was, how he liked my body. His pictures were really cute, and he wasn’t like the boys in my school. We flirted back and forth on social media, until I felt comfortable enough to talk on the phone with him. I was surprised how old he sounded, but he told me that I sounded like a grown woman. For the first time I didn’t feel like a little girl. We talked all day and all night, texting, chatting, snapping. My mother didn’t know what was going on. They were too busy to notice. Until I decided to skip school and meet him. In fact, I not only skipped school; he sent me a bus ticket and I left the state to be with him.

I traveled to Ohio and I met up with who I thought was a guy about the same age as I was, but he was grown. I was mad a first that he lied about his age, but that went away while we were hanging out. He was so sweet to me, really kind. That night he reassured me that he wasn’t like the other guys, we drank, smoked, and then it happened. He didn’t waste any time before he sold me. He said I was his now, and I had to earn my keep, do what he says. I was so scared, I wanted to call my folks but I was scared of them too. I ran away, how could I face them at home after disappearing like that? Well, Purple Wings found me, they found me on Facebook because I had my location on. The police found me, and I was relieved when they did. My life has changed forever since running away and being trafficked. If I could tell one girl out there something, I’d tell them to be careful, to listen to your parents because even though they smother you, and get on your nerves…they want what’s best for you. I wish I would have listened.

A.W. 17 yrs

My name is Destiny and I am 26 years old. I began working in the sex industry at the tender age of 14 at the age to maintain my drug habits as well as my life as a runaway teenaged adult. At the age of 17 I met a man who told me he could show me new and more profitable ways to sell my body. But, I would have to give him all the profits and gains. He told me that he would change my life. Turns out he did, but not for the better. Once I made the commitment to become one of his girls, I became his property, his worker, and his slave. I moved from Seattle to Las Vegas where he had complete control of my life. I had to ask permission to go places; I had to ask for money for food, hygiene products, even clothing…everything was in his control. He had a say in everything! From what I wore, to what I ate, even the men I slept with.

This took a major toll on my physical and mental state of my mind. Not only could you see it in my looks but the way I thought about myself, and carried myself. Finally, realizing I needed to change my life; After looking for help I found myself in the presence of Ms. Toshia Shaw, someone who cared and understood. I found refuge in other places like church, and other forms of therapy; but nothing hit home as much as someone that actually had been through what I have. Someone who understood the addiction I had to drugs, and well as being in the “game”. The sex industry has a hold on its victims that you wouldn’t believe, and without proper help and guidance you may never get out of the darkness.

Purple W.I.N.G.S. help me see a light. Discovering a place that help other young girls going through the same thing I went through; and at the time was still going through, help me seek peace. I’m so thankful to be apart of the PACT program and hope it changes many more lives and has a positive impact like it has for me.

J.S. 25 yrs

*Names have been changed to protect their identity.