Human trafficking: Inspiration from the survivors

Photo illustration of a woman held captive, a victim of human trafficking. (Photo: Structuresxx, via Shutterstock)

“Within this season we as survivors must step into our rightful positions and move into greater greatness.” —from “My Truth, YET STILL I RISE” by Dutchess Battle

I’m a survivor of human trafficking.

When I was 7, I was sold into trafficking by my abuser. A young woman just a few years older than me, who had also been trafficked, helped free me when I was 11 years old.

I didn’t see myself as a survivor until I saw other survivors take ownership over what happened to them and transform their healing to action.

Through this work, I’ve learned Sacramento is ranked second for trafficking in the nation.

For years, I dedicated my life to building a better world for our children by working with young people in foster care. I always knew my difficult childhood put me on a path to help my children, family, and community, but it took me decades to face the trauma I had bottled up inside.

A few years ago, I came across a video featuring other survivors marching to the state Capitol and chanting “survivors speak.” Watching them inspired me to share my story so I could face my trauma and heal.

I became involved with the survivors featured in the video, members of Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice (CSSJ), a national network of more than 10,000 crime survivors and advocates from across California and the nation.

I recommitted myself to the youth in our community, helping young women and girls escape trafficking. Through this work, I’ve learned Sacramento is ranked second for trafficking in the nation. The extreme numbers put my own experience in perspective while pushing me to do more for our girls, most of whom are Black and brown.

In my efforts with 3Strands Global and Sister to Sister, we work to respond to the needs of young women and girls being trafficked by offering assistance in navigating the support systems available to them and providing referrals to resources and housing so they have somewhere to go once we help them escape trafficking. We also make and distribute care packages to young women who may not yet be able to leave, but still require support and services.

I’ve built relationships with law enforcement, including the district attorney’s office, to ensure trafficked young women who may become involved with the justice system are not criminalized, and instead are supported on their path to a safe, healthy, and fulfilling life.

My journey to healing has transformed my life. When I started to see myself as a survivor and began sharing my story, I weighed over 300 pounds and suffered from depression. In the past two years, I have lost 120 pounds and have found my calling.

Now, I’m starting a nonprofit, Priceless on Purpose, dedicated to helping young girls go from being victims of trafficking to becoming survivors like me.

I believe our girls are priceless and we will only unlock their potential if we are intentional about investing in policies and programs that tackle trauma and healing—if we do our work on purpose.

We need policies and programs that acknowledge the trauma many of us experience due to crime and violence like the Neighborhood Wellness Foundation in Sacramento. We also need our justice system to invest in healing and transformation, not simply incarceration and punishment.

We must create more opportunities for healing through action. Every day, I see so many young women and girls in need of our help, without access to enough services or supports that will truly make a difference in their lives.

In April, I attended Survivors Speak in Sacramento, hosted by CSSJ, to join my voice with 600 others from across the state and nation. Together, we will lift our voices to create real and lasting change in our communities. Our young people are depending on us—let’s show them they are seen, heard, and valued.

Ed’s Note: Kali’ Rhonda Battle is a community advocate helping young women and girls escape and recover from trafficking in Sacramento

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