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Human Trafficking Victim Finds Her Hope

Jasmine remembers, “He had diamond jewelry and a wad of cash.  And he was handsome, and he was dressed nicely.  He spent seven bucks on me, but I-I was impressed.  Like, that's all it took too, for someone to get my attention.”

Attention is what she had craved since childhood.  Her dad worked long hours, and her mom struggled with mental illness.  

Jasmine says, “That nurture and care, that closeness wasn't available.  I didn't know who I was for a long time because I had become whoever I had to be to take care of her.”

But it wasn’t just her parents – at church, even God felt distant.  She explains, “You don't want to mess up, 'cause then you're bad.  And then by the time I was 12, 13, I had messed up so bad that I thought I could never approach God.”

Throughout her teen years, she found validation in the party crowd, boys, and sex.  Then after high school while at a nightclub, she met a man who showered her with gifts and affection – a man she believed could provide everything she wanted.  

She says, “So I felt, like, connected to him, and that I loved him and that he loved me.”

By then she was working as a hair stylist and planned on going to college, hoping for a stable future, a home, and a family.  But that, he said, would take time. He had a better plan.

Jasmine remembers him telling her, “‘I know a way we can have a lot of money.  We can have a business. We can have a family, like everything you want.’  And it seemed like you can have all this stuff, like, sooner than later.”

She’d soon realize, his business was selling sex.  She objected at first, but he was persistent.

She says, “He's telling me I'm ‘having sex anyways, I might as well get paid for it.’  He'd try to talk me into, I'd change my mind.  Like, go back and forth, back and forth.  And when I said, ‘If I want to stop, can I?’  And of course he promised, ‘Yeah, if you don't want to do it, you don't have to.’

Then she saw an old friend who was making a lot of money as a stripper.  

Jasmine recalls, “Her room is filled with clothes and shoes and jewelry.  And like she wasn't handcuffed to anything.  She wasn't drugged.  She wasn't beaten.  Like if anything, she looked good. And I started feeling like, ‘Hmm. Maybe I am missing out. Like maybe this isn't that bad.’”

So she agreed to go to a massage parlor where she could give it a try.  But, the shame and guilt quickly followed.

She shares, “The first time I had to exchange myself, like nothing prepares you for this, nothing.  It was just horrifying.  It was so disgusting.  It was so shameful.”

After a few weeks, Jasmine told her boyfriend she didn’t want to do it anymore.  In response, he beat her up.

She says, “Oh crap.  What did I get myself into?  I'm not gonna be able to just walk away.  This isn't that simple.”

For the next five years, she worked as a prostitute, stuck in a cycle of codependency, fueled by fear and an overwhelming sense of shame.  She left him several times, but always went back.

She explains, “He'd badger me, manipulate me, cry, show up with diamonds.  ‘I'll never hit you again.’ Then it would go to, ‘But you're a dirty prostitute.  No one will ever love you again.  You're so disgusting.  No one will ever marry you.’ You know, so I'd just stay and stay.”

Jasmine continues, “There were some moments where I thought, ‘Okay, maybe this is gonna be okay. Maybe I will have the cars and the house and the family and the businesses – everything he's promising.’  I had to hope in something.  And that hope that he would someday change and everything would come true, kept me going.”

But when she got pregnant by her boyfriend and he coerced her to get an abortion, she realized the truth.  

She says, “That moment, I knew everything he promised was never gonna come true ever.  I knew I gotta go.  I gotta get out of here.”

After months of skimming cash off the top, she had the money and courage to leave, and put a restraining order on her boyfriend.  It was the last she saw of him.  But happiness would elude her.  The coming three years would see her addicted to heroin and returning to prostitution.

She shares, “I wanted to be well.  And I'll tell you, during the whole time of being trafficked and my drug addiction, somewhere in there I knew that I was not created to live this life.  I was just so trapped and I didn't know another way.”

Finally in 2006, she decided to get help after her brother died from a drug overdose.  She was living in a rehab home, when an older lady invited her to church.

Jasmine says, “I was like 27, straight off the street.  You know, felt like a junk tank.  Just so dirty and so gross.  But all these people were in this church and they're all praising the Lord and loving life.  And I was like, ‘What do they have?’  And she goes to take me home, and she says, ‘Honey, do you want to know Jesus and how much He loves you and can wash you clean and forgive you?’  And I was like, ‘Yes, who is He?’  And I'm like crying.  And I literally received Jesus that day in the backseat of a car.”

Jasmine overcame her addiction but still carried the burden shame, telling no one about her old life.  Five years later at a church women’s group, Jasmine – now married with children – found the courage to speak up.  One of the members was talking about ministering to women in the sex industry.

Jasmine says, “All of the sudden I'm on fire.  And I have to raise my hand and tell her, ‘I had a pimp.  I danced.  I was on drugs.  I did everything you're talking about.  How do I help young girls, so they don't end up like me?’  And she said, ‘Ah!  You're a survivor!  You’re amazing!’  All these ladies started clapping and they were all thrilled.  And I couldn't believe the roof didn't set on fire, 'cause I just told you my deepest darkest secret!  And everything changed from that moment.  The Lord was just healing me.  And it started to feel empowering in that, if I had suffered all that, but now I can help heal somebody else, then that’s okay with me.”

Today Jasmine is not only a survivor – she also works in the anti-trafficking movement.  She says by God’s grace, she is a new person.  She shares, “I see myself so much now as how Christ sees me.  And my identity is in Him.  And my security is in Him alone.  Oh my gosh, that changed my life!”

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