Long before the trafficker found her, Mary was already subjected to abuse. She would witness her dad hitting her mom and fell asleep to the sounds of screaming arguments. On a few occasions her dad hit her too.
Then she met John in high school. They started dating and she would lie to her parents and stay with him for the night to escape the loud screaming matches. It felt like a fairy tale. He would tell her how beautiful she was and how she deserved better. Then the idea of going to Florida came up. How could Mary resist the chance to escape the abuse at home?
Once they got to Florida everything changed. John said they needed to stay at a cheap motel until they could find jobs and a place to live. Then he started bringing other men over. He said this would be the best way to save money to get a house, so she tried it. Mary felt dirty and cheap and told him she didn’t want to do it anymore. That’s when his entire demeanor changed. He screamed at her, calling her horrible things she still hears in her nightmares. He said he was giving her food and drugs and she owed it to him. She was getting paid but he took every penny. He threatened her and even tied her up to make sure she didn’t leave. This went on for several months.
She was terrified when the SWAT team came in and found her with a customer. But instead of arresting her, they explained they wanted to get her out of human trafficking. They brought in a victim advocate from Florida Abolitionist who helped get her to a residential program for victims of human trafficking and visited her weekly for emotional support. FA also got her a new I.D., a bus pass, and helped her apply for government assistance. Mary successfully completed the residential program and has also found a job and an apartment with the help of the FA’s victim services team. Mary continues outpatient counseling for the trauma she endured but is healing.
Mary says that without Florida Abolitionist’s support, she would have probably gone back to the streets to sell her body because she didn’t think there was another way. Now she has dreams for her future, to go back to school and to major in cosmetology. FA continues to work with Mary and will help her apply for scholarships and financial aid when she’s ready to take that step. One day she hopes to be able to share her story with others and be an advocate for young women who are at risk to be trafficked.
Your support makes it possible for survivors of human
trafficking, like Mary to have new lives. Thank you!
To watch Mary’s story on video, click here.