Holly's Story

“Holly” came into Gracehaven’s care on an emergency placement. She was fresh off of the streets after being trafficked up to 30 times a day. Because of this, she had several medical issues including withdrawing from crack and sexually transmitted infections. For the first few days Holly just sobbed in her bed. She was scared she wouldn’t see her mother again because she was complicit in Holly’s trafficking. And she was terrified at where she was, and who we were.

For the first couple of months Holly kept to herself, was very quiet and extremely submissive. She had never advocated for herself before. She was a “yes girl” and went along with whatever someone told her to do, even if it wasn’t in her best interest.

Gracehaven's staff and therapist patiently worked with Holly to help her feel safe and begin embracing her need for healing. And a few months into therapy Holly started to learn some critical applications: how to speak up for herself; how to have healthy boundaries; and how to resolve conflict. She also started learning about God and the Bible, especially His love for her. As a result, she accepted His gift of forgiveness for herself. She continues to read her Bible and other Christian books daily.

Today, Holly is a different person! She is the light of every room she enters, and continues to make everyone laugh throughout the day. She takes pride in being the leader of the house, and being the “big sister” to the other girls. She is working towards her GED, and plans to attend cosmetology school.

While at Gracehaven, our social workers helped her get her first real job, obtain an ID, and start a checking and savings account. She has completed drug and alcohol treatment, and says she never wants to return to the lifestyle.

Holly is moving in with a host family while she finishes her GED and gets enrolled in cosmetology school. Gracehaven will continue to support her as a community client. Holly plans to get a driver’s license soon, continue therapy, and continue to attend her new church and Bible study groups where she has finally found peace. 

 

"I Just Did What I Had to Do"

Rebekkah O'Bryan, Community Case Manager

“Laura” is 17 years old. Her mother's substance abuse issues, frequent incarcerations and involvement with violent men forced Laura into foster care where she was sexually abused when she was very young. She was reunited with her mother at 15, but her mom struggled to make ends meet and was being abused by one boyfriend after another. The oldest of three daughters, Laura felt a responsibility to help keep her family together. When her much older boyfriend suggested she do so by selling sex, she agreed, believing she had no other options. Laura was consistently exploited for two years, giving the majority of her earnings to her mother and "boyfriend." Because her home was an active trafficking situation, she was taken into custody by children's services.

When I met her a year ago, she insisted she wasn't being trafficked and just "did what I had to do." She also insisted her boyfriend loved her, and nothing she had endured was his fault. She ran away from many of her placements, but in each one I continued to meet with her, doing my best to show her unconditional love and grace.

Not long ago Laura was placed into our residential house where she continued her therapy in an accepting and graceful environment. She experienced first-hand how she can be loved just for who she is, not what she does.  She also learned about Christ and the new life she can have in Him. And because of this, she accepted Him as her savior.

We’re so grateful that Laura is in a much better place. She now recognizes her former boyfriend as her trafficker. She enjoys discussing the red flags of traffickers so that she can avoid them in the future. And with the hope in Christ, she’s beginning to believe she has value and that there is life after trafficking.

 

"People Who Have Been There With Me No Matter What"

Rebekkah O'Bryan, Community Case Manager

I've worked with “Jane” since she was 16 years old. She was trafficked at 15 which resulted in her bearing a child. Jane’s raging anger manifested itself in episodes of explosive language and violence, actions that consistently caused her to incur new charges in juvenile court. Over the course of two years, she began opening up more about her trauma - years of sexual and physical abuse compounded with trafficking and rapes. She'd never had anyone to support her, not even her mother who told her it was her fault she had been exploited. As Jane began to understand that Gracehaven was there to support her unconditionally, I watched her change, slowly but surely. Jane, who was so resistant two years ago, calls me throughout the week just to chat. This girl, who was known for crimes like robbery and assault, has not committed any sort of crime in nearly two years. This young woman, who had absolutely no foresight, has managed to secure her very own apartment at the tender age of 18. And this week we get to attend Jane’s housewarming party. She asked me to invite everyone from Gracehaven, even those she hadn't met, because she wanted to "celebrate with the people who have been there for me no matter what."