Mary’s story: From human trafficking victim to new life

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 30, 2016

Editor’s note: Mary’s story is true, but many of the details have been omitted to protect her identity.

 Staff report

Mary always went to work happy.

When she was 11, she says, her stepfather raped her — resulting in an unwanted pregnancy and abortion — and beat her until she ran away three years later.

She became a prostitute and began making a lot of money. Nobody was beating her.

She had to get a pimp — the rules of the “game,” as she calls it — and she decided to pick the one “that seemed the nicest and the cutest.”

“I was actually happy with him,” she says.

They traveled to Atlanta, Texas, California — all over the country.

“As long as he got me McDonald’s every day and ice cream, I was cool,” Mary says. “I was happy because I wasn’t getting beaten every day. But I was a kid. Seriously, a kid.”

Despite the fact that she was “happy,” Mary decided to stash away cash.

“Something deep in me said, hide some money,” she says.

A year later, she ended up back home, and enrolled in high school. In class, she’d look at the maps on the wall, and show her friends the cities where she  worked.

“I was so proud,” she says. “It did not seem wrong to me. But I missed the excitement.”

She taps a manicured index finger to the side of her head. “I was a hooker here.”

Soon, Mary started skipping school and dating a much older guy who was a drug dealer.

“He beat me up,” she says, “but it’s OK for men to do stuff to you if they buy you something.”

That was the way she thought back then.

She went to training school at 16, and later hooked up with another pimp who gave her an apartment for her 17th birthday. Around that time, a girlfriend entered the military, and she considered doing the same.

“I was right there,” Mary says, “but I went the wrong way. Now she’s retired and I’ve got nothing. I wanted to be normal, but I thought I was meant to be a ho.”

When she was in her late 30s, prostitution began to seem wrong.

“A voice told me, if you keep doing this, you’re gonna lose everything,” Mary says. “I’ve been shot and stabbed. But I got out because I started feeling like it was wrong.”

She had started training young girls. That really bothered her, she admits.

“I was teaching a child,” she says. “She was a real kid. She was not tough. She was vulnerable. I felt protective of her.”

Her pimp bought her a diamond bracelet, rims for her new Cadillac, she says. “But it still bothered me in my soul.”

She dreamed of “being retired” by her pimp, of being given a house and a car.

“I know a couple of girls who got it,” Mary says wistfully. “But only a couple.”

Finally, when she went to a three day “party house” in a large, Southern city — a place where pretty much anything goes — she decided to leave. She only had a little bit of money, two suitcases and a purse. “Good enough to start a new life,” she says.

She called an 800-number she’d memorized from a prostitution Web site.

She was told to go to the closest emergency room, and from there, she was taken to a women’s shelter. There, she met with representatives from Triad Ladder of Hope, which helps victims of human trafficking. The organization was founded in High Point 10 years ago.

That was in September, and Mary is now rebuilding her life in middle age.

Since she left the shelter, she now has a place of her own, thanks to Triad Ladder of Hope. She’s completed a jobs readiness program, but has had trouble getting a job because of her criminal record.

She’s struggled with thoughts of returning to her old life, but she’s determined to change.

“I think God wanted me to help other girls,” says Mary, who’s now in training to become a peer support specialist.

“God will use everything that has happened to women like Mary for good,” says the Rev. Rod Kerr, who heads Jobs for Life at First Baptist.

Proceeds from First Baptist Church’s upcoming indoor yard sale will benefit both Triad Ladder of Hope and the church’s Jobs for Life program.


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First Baptist Church’s annual yard sale is set for 6-8:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 5, and 7 a.m.-noon Saturday, Aug. 6 in the lower level of the Ministry Center, 220 N. Fulton St. 

You can take donations 6-8 p.m. Monday-Wednesday. Adult clothing, old televisions, old computers and mattresses are not accepted.

For details, call Lou Hamilton at 704-637-0776 or Rod Kerr at 704-633-0431.