An estimated 4.5 million people around the world are forced into sexual slavery, according to the Polaris Project.
It’s happening in every state in America. That’s why one woman is making it her mission to help survivors find a way out.
“I didn’t know any other life,” a woman who wanted to go by Amy told TV5.
Amy was born into abuse and eventually shuffled through foster homes. At the age of 9, she said she ran away to escape the revolving door of molestation.
She had no idea she was about to enter the dark underbelly of the adult world.
“I was kidnapped out of a bus station in New York,” Amy said. “And I was put in child pornography … and then by age 12, I was bought by my second trafficker.”
By 16, she made her way out, but the pain of being sold over and over again soon became too difficult.
“Drugs gave me the comfort that I needed. It took me out of those emotions and those fears and anger,” Amy said.
That’s how Amy coped for decades.
She got clean about 18 months ago, but she knew she also needed to address the pain from her past. Earlier this year, she found Sanctum House.
In February, Sanctum House became the first safe house in southeastern Michigan to offer long-term care for women who’ve been trafficked.
“We offer a full wrap-around service program of physical, psychological, emotional, educational and spiritual needs to help someone become a well-rounded person,” Sanctum House Founder Edee Franklin said.
She said women in Sanctum House’s roughly two-year program learn not only how to cope with their trauma, but also how to transition back into society.
Staff help the survivors with a variety of services that some of the women may not have experienced in years or ever before, including taking them to various doctors, ensuring they’re getting the therapy and treatment they need, signing them up for school or vocational training as well as teaching them how to cook, clean, grocery shop and manage money.
“Basic life skills that you and I take for granted,” Franklin said.
While Sanctum House looks cozy and inviting, Franklin said making that step to join the program can be scary. She knows firsthand.
“It’s courageous to face what people have to face in their pasts,” Franklin said.
Decades ago, Franklin faced her own past of drug addiction. Little did she know, it would lay the foundation for Sanctum House’s inspiration.
“That’s what I think it boils down to,” Franklin said. “I see me in every single woman because I know I am them and they are me.”
And they are what fuel her and her team to make sure each woman thrives.
“We’re peddling hope and love and an opportunity to be who you always knew you could be or you didn’t know you could be, so you’re going to find out and discover who you’re gonna be," Franklin said.
“I’m becoming the woman I’ve always dreamt about being,” Amy said.
At 53, Amy said she’s just now learning how to cope with her trauma.
“How to react to things differently, I’ve learned how to perceive things differently," Amy said.
With each break-through, those nightmares from her past fade and her dreams start to shine through.
“The possibilities are endless and I’m walking in that possibility today,” Amy said.
Sanctum House’s program is about two years-long, so Amy will be there for roughly another year and a half. She hopes to one day work at Sanctum House and help other women who share a similar journey.