“I could NEVER get up and share my story,” I declared to three of my friends at the 6th Annual Human Trafficking Awareness Day in Orlando, FL four years ago. It was the first anti-human trafficking awareness event I had attended and it changed my life. It was at that event when I learned exactly what human trafficking was and realized what happened to me when I was younger wasn’t prostitution; it was human trafficking.
Since the day I said I could never get up and share my story, I’ve shared it more times than I can count. During this year’s 2018 Human Trafficking Awareness Month, I have had the opportunity to be part of some amazing events. Here’s a recap.
January 10th I had the privilege of speaking at an event in St. Augustine which, with over 3,500 people,
was the largest event I’ve ever spoken at. I’m thankful to have had the support and encouragement of Linsey Ruth and AJ Luck at that event. I also had the honor of meeting Heather Prince, from Freedom 7 Task Force.
On the 18th my friend, Traci Smith went with me to the Florida State College at Jacksonville to speak at the North East Florida Human Trafficking Coalition’s Annual Gathering. I met so many amazing people at this event and I loved learning about the collaboration that they have in Jacksonville.
The 27th was the Greater Orlando Human Trafficking Task Force’s 10th Annual Human Trafficking Awareness Day and I had the honor to lead a seminar and share my experiences with others. This year the whole experience of Awareness Day was different, not only because I was there with so many amazing people who work endlessly to spread awareness and help victims, but also a special group of survivor warriors were in attendance and volunteering.
Finally, January 30th I spoke a Human Trafficking Symposium at the University of Florida, put on by Gators Against Trafficking. I was more nervous than usual at this event and I shared less than I normally do, but I felt what I said was enough for the amount of time I had and for what was needed. I enjoyed myself and I loved the opportunity to meet the attendees. Frank Williams was there and he is one of my favorite people in the fight against trafficking. I was thankful for the amazing people came out to support me.
On the evening of the 31st I received a phone call that was such a reminder of why I speak out and expose the trauma I was ashamed of for so many years. The call was from a student who had attended the event at UF the night before. Until listening to my story, she didn’t know she was a victim of trafficking. Her step parent has been selling her for years, and though she knew what was happening was wrong, the student has been threatened that if she ever tells, she will be in trouble for prostituting. She was last sold when she went home for Christmas break.
There are times I don’t feel strong and I think about quitting… it would be the easy thing to do. After having a hysterectomy in October and doubting my emotional strength during the recovery period I didn’t really think I would be able to get up and speak again. God used an interview with Karla Ray to help me find me strength again. I’ve also had the support of many friends to remind me keep my strength. No matter what obstacles I may face or who tries to make me stop speaking, I will not stop! As long as I have a voice I will continue to be a voice for the voiceless.