Measuring Success One Life at a Time
Her Song believes in creating or using practical tools that help clients succeed. Behind every life that has been hurt by trafficking, there is a story that shows the triumphant nature of the human spirit to recover from the most egregious injustice. Her Song believes that every person is worthy of dignity and honor, so we asked permission to share this story because it belongs to someone special. No real names are used. This is her story.
THE EARLY YEARS
Natalie, now 30 years old, was sold for sex along with her younger brother from her earliest memories at 4-5 years old. She and her family lived in a small camper in a rural area with no electricity or running water. Her parents were addicted to drugs and would sell her and her brother for sex nightly to buyers in order to supply their drug habit. Natalie struggled in school and was ostracized because she was smelly and dirty and always hungry. Natalie was removed from her home by social services on several occasions but always sent back where she endured being sold for sex until the end of high school.
THE MIDDLE YEARS
Natalie graduated from high school and a teacher helped her get a scholarship for college. By this time, Natalie suffered from depression, anxiety, PTSD (Post-traumatic Stress Disorder) and dissociation. All her troubles went with her to college where she was introduced to alcohol and found an escape from her nightmares through abusing alcohol. Two years into college she could not keep up, although she was very intelligent, so she enlisted in the military to get away from her family who would continue to drain her of any resources she could pull together to try to create a life for herself.
THE ADULT YEARS
Natalie excelled briefly in the military but was put on mental health leave due to depression and alcohol abuse. In fact, the alcohol, depression, and dissociation caused her to lose her job leaving her homeless in Jacksonville, Florida, living out of her car with her dog and military gear. Eventually, she ran out of money and gas and was noticed by two older men who showed sympathy to her dilemma. She was promised a room, food, a shower, support to get on her feet, a tow for her car, even to bring her dog, and the opportunity to one day pay them back. That night, they took her to a modest home in a middle-class neighborhood and moved her into her very own room. Then they drilled the door shut. Natalie was starved. She was fed alcohol for many days without food and not allowed to go to the bathroom or shower. Buyers of sex and drugs were coming and going from the home using her.
THE END OF TRAFFICKING
After months of this existence, Natalie was let out one day for a sandwich, her sellers assuming she was too weak to run. However, she ran out of the house and collapsed in the driveway vomiting and a neighbor called 911. She was admitted to the hospital to recover and in the process identified by hospital social workers as a trafficking victim. The call was made to Her Song and the staff met Natalie for the first time laying in a hospital bed searching for help and answers.
BRINGING HER HOME
Natalie was admitted to Her Song’s residential recovery program, just like the one described in this proposal. For a year, Natalie built herself up, tending to her physical and mental health challenges, learning coping skills, attending AA meetings, and many hours of counseling and support. Her dog was rescued from the men who trafficked her and placed in a foster home where she was spoiled and often visited Natalie on weekends. Natalie built up her education by attending college classes and completing a Certified Nursing Assistant program, graduating top of her class, giving a speech to her peers in the room, and a huge Her Song audience there to support her. Toward the 1-year mark, Natalie had completed some college classes, making all “A’s” and began to plan a future in statistics. She gained employment using her nursing skills and continued to go to school. She moved to a sober living community where she lived for a year and continued working and going to school. Her Song continued to support her with Economic Mobility Mentoring.
Natalie supports herself and her dog, lives on her own, has been sober for over 2 years, and is close to finishing her Associate’s Degree. Two weeks ago, Natalie was employed by the same hospital that had identified her as a trafficking victim. She is active in Her Song’s Economic Mobility Program as she continues to build her life skills and a bright future.