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Ashley’s Journey from Survivor to Thriver

Survivors like her need your help today.

Meet Ashley (not her real name)

“For me prostitution wasn’t an option or choice. It was a way of life, a generational thing. My mother was my first trafficker.”

Can you imagine? The one person who is supposed to love you unconditionally puts you up for sale. At a young age, Ashley was denied the tools to be self-sufficient and forced into a dangerous environment by her own mother. But there is hope!

You see, one way the i-5 Freedom Network is helping survivors find a path forward out of the life of trafficking is through the Way2Work program.

By offering these survivors work opportunities, building confidence, and developing their communication skills through our seminars we are helping them rediscover their self-worth and regain control over what their traffickers attempted to steal from them: Their true value as a human being.

Leaving Is Hard, And Staying Out Is Harder

I think we can all imagine that a life controlled by a pimp or trafficker is brutal. And it is certainly easy to understand that escaping this brutal existence is hard, but what most don’t realize is that staying out can be even harder.

People who get trapped in the cycle of trafficking rarely feel like they can leave their abusive situation due to a lack of options. And the main reason many stay is because they long to feel valued and loved.

Sadly, traffickers know that often all it takes to get a victim to stay are gestures that make them feel cared for; taking her to get her nails done or having dinner together every night can be enough to make the victim feel like their trafficker is their family.

“I knew what my pimp was doing when he sold me for sex. But when he did something nice for me, it was the only time I ever felt special, so I kept doing it,” Ashley explained.

Barriers To Self-Sufficiency And Self-Love

With a criminal history due to their exploitation, no traditional work history, and interrupted education, getting sustainable work is practically impossible for a survivor. This is why our program is successful in disrupting human trafficking in our community: It provides resources, communication and confidence skills to overcome mental barriers to finding gainful and sustainable employment. So no matter how they find the job, the skills learned in from Way2Work help them keep the job and stay away from the tangle and trap of exploitation.

Just think: what if your trafficker convinced you that your only value was through selling your body? Wouldn’t it make you believe this was your only option? Wouldn’t it make other options that much more difficult to envision and leave you feeling hopeless?

“During that time, my value became the amount of money I could make and the amount of pleasure I could give my clients.”

There Is Hope

Way2Work aims to give women like Ashley hope for the future and the confidence to know their worth, so they can permanently leave this life of modern-day slavery.

After attending our Way2Work seminars, Ashley shared:

“I was living in an unstable state… God put my Way2Work instructor in my life to help me find my way. I thank her for this. You all gave me a vision. I learned that every person has value and all we need is an opportunity. Sometimes… we don’t believe [that we have abilities]. But now, I have an honest view of myself. A very strong one. I am strong.”

Whether Way2Work participants have been out of the trafficking life for only a few months or for many years, these traumas and uphill battles leave lifelong scars. But thanks to our supporters that have allowed this program to grow, these survivors will be able to have hope and see a different vision for themselves that will have a lifelong impact.

“For many years I have felt like I have never belonged anywhere. The Way2Work program helped me find my confidence and the strength to keep going on.
I increased my self-confidence to the extent that I was able to make a social media video sharing that I was a human trafficking survivor and asked people if they wanted to hear about my story. I went from zero followers to 6,000 views and almost 3,000 comments in one weekend asking me to please share if I was comfortable. I started to make more videos sharing my experiences. I had never been able to talk in a video before and to be as open as I was in this video was a major breakthrough for me!
I also had the confidence to start my own business thanks to the Way2Work program, which I presented in the Skills for Success course. I was able to take my business to another level.”

The Fight Must Continue

Fortunately, in 2020, our program was able to grow in capacity during the pandemic because of our supporters. We were able to offer 17 online workshops since March 2020 serving 160 survivors.

Sadly, trafficking also grew over the last 18 months. Demand did not seem to be affected by the pandemic. Pimps grew more abusive. Labor traffickers had even more leverage over their victims. The vulnerable became ever more so.

This terrible reality is why we keep doing what we do. We must continue to disrupt the cycle of human trafficking by providing the tools and skills needed for survivors to realize their true and complete value.

What Can I Do?

You have the power to give survivors the gift of a path forward and away from the brutal life of a trafficked person.

If you are as committed and undeterred as we are about doing everything we can to turn survivors into thrivers, consider lending your support with a monthly gift.

Your gift will return what their traffickers attempted to steal from them: their freedom and dignity.

If you are inspired by the results of the Way2Work program, please consider sharing this story with 5 of your friends!

You can also sign the pledge to show your dedication to supporting the cause.

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