Imagine a young girl. We’ll call her Carla. As a little girl Carla had dreams of growing up and being a mommy. She loved to play with dolls and wear pretty dresses. As Carla grew, she loved going to school. She loved to see her friends and her teacher each day. School was hard for her, but she worked hard and was cooperative in class. Her teachers would compliment her on her effort and her ability to get along with others.
When she was 7, Carla’s mom invited her boyfriend to come and live with them. At first Carla liked him. He said she was pretty, and he bought her things. He made her feel special. He soon became her step dad. Then one day Carla’s step dad starting touching her in ways that made her feel funny inside. He said this was their special relationship, and she shouldn’t tell her mom. Carla didn’t like the way the touching made her feel, but she was special. She liked being special. It was very confusing.
As the year went on the touching became a regular part of her day. Then he started having her touch him. She didn’t really want to, but she thought she was supposed to. Eventually Carla was being molested on a regular basis by her step dad. She hated it, but she thought it was what she was supposed to do. As she got a little older, Carla’s step dad would come home drunk. Then the special touching didn’t feel special at all. Carla was afraid of him. He would slap her if she didn’t do exactly what he wanted. He told her he would leave her mom and then Carla would be put in a foster home if she didn’t do what he said. Carla was scared all the time. She didn’t know what to do. She felt trapped.
Now, let’s stop a minute. Wouldn’t you do just about anything to help Carla? Wouldn’t you do whatever you could to get her out of that situation?
Well, nobody did. Nobody knew, so nobody helped.
So what happened to Carla? Well, eventually she decided to help herself. After years of abuse, Carla started smoking marijuana with kids after school. When she smoked marijuana, she could feel the tension in her body ease. It felt like no one was going to hurt her when she was high. She liked that feeling. Eventually she started trying other drugs to help her forget what was happening and how badly she felt.
What she thought was helping her escape the horror she felt at home was actually setting her up for more horror later on. Her use of drugs had created an addiction to drugs. Soon, all she thought about was her next high. All thoughts of school were gone. Carla was so far behind she just knew she would never catch up and graduate, so why try?
At 13, Carla ran away and ended up meeting her boyfriend. Carla’s boyfriend, who was years older, immediately asked her to move in with him; this would get Carla away from her step dad. No more listening to his raging violence against her mom. No more special touching. Besides, her boyfriend really loved her, and he would take care of her. So Carla dropped out of school and moved in with her boyfriend.
She figured that since he loved her so much, she would do anything for him. And that’s exactly what she did. Carla, was told by her boyfriend that if she really loved him, then she would go out and make them money, because he needed it. Carla agreed and he taught her everything she needed to know about sex. Every day and every night, Carla’s boyfriend would set up “dates” for her and expect her to make a certain quota. She didn’t think it was too bad though, besides he clothed her, fed her, and sometimes he would even let her sleep in his bed with him, that is when all of his other girls were not around. Carla would get beaten if she disobeyed, didn’t make her daily quota, or tried to talk back. Soon, things got bad. Carla’s boyfriend, who she called “Daddy,” made her service up to 25 men per day. Carla felt trapped and used drugs as an escape from her pain.
She felt compelled to stay, he loved her and she never felt this kind of love before in her life. While she was “working” one day, Carla, now 17 years old, got caught by police and taken in. Her boyfriend was nowhere to be found. Realizing that Carla was still a minor, police and victim advocates tried to persuade Carla to share her story. Carla refused to speak to them and declined any assistance, realizing that she was putting her “Daddy” in jeopardy if she spoke up. Carla was released to a family member but fled immediately to find her boyfriend. She soon came to find out that her boyfriend had left her and the state behind. She felt trapped again.
Carla had no money to pay for a hotel room and no “Daddy” to “care” for her. So she was now homeless, addicted to drugs, and completely alone. The only people she knew all these years were her boyfriend, other “working girls”, drug addicts, and drug dealers. When she didn’t get her drugs, she felt so bad inside. Her body hurt. She was sure she would go crazy. She wanted to die.
One day as she walked along Colfax, a man offered to pay for a hotel room for her, buy her some food, and give her some money if she would do some things for him. This is the only thing she knew how to do and this is what she was forced to do to survive.
Thus began Carla’s career in prostitution at age 18. Her life became a cycle of turning tricks to get money to buy drugs and have a place to sleep. Some of the men were violent. One man knocked her teeth out. She had no place to go. There was no hope… only years of addiction, abuse, and survival.
The little girl in the abusive home that you would have done anything to help is now a 27-year-old drug addicted prostitute with her teeth knocked out walking the streets of Colfax. Rather than wanting to help her, people are afraid of her. People say things like, “You chose to do this” or “You could have gotten help, if you wanted.”
Would you help the 7-year-old Carla? Will you help the 27-year-old Carla?
At Street’s Hope, we offer mercy. We offer an escape for women from sex trafficking and the commercial sex industry. We offer hope and are committed to giving women second chances.
If Carla came to Street’s Hope, she would have been greeted with respect and unconditional love. She would have found a safe community where she could transition from just surviving to thriving. She would receive support to guide her through recovery from her drug addictions. She would be able to work with a trained professional who would help her unpack the trauma and betrayals she was dealt by the men in her life, and would learn to forgive herself and to boldly walk into her future. She may have even revived her once-precious love for education, gotten her GED and went back to school seeking a newly discovered passion.
At Street’s Hope, women like Carla will find healing, hope and a future. Help us help women like Carla to reclaim their stolen humanity