This blog is the first in a series of interviews with survivors have graduated from Selah Freedom and are now on staff.
When it comes to human trafficking, much of our world avoids understanding the reality of “the life”. What happens to girls entrapped by this crime, their lives, their futures, and their dreams?
Breanna, one of Selah Freedom’s very own graduates who now serves on staff in our outreach Program, took the time to share her story.
Above: Breanna, (far left), stands with fellow survivor graduates and Selah Freedom Co-Founder, Elizabeth Melendez Fisher Good, at event raising funds and awareness to fight sex trafficking.
Before coming into contact with Selah Freedom, Breanna was sold to a drug dealer by her boyfriend, who was also her trafficker.
“There was one night around 2 am when the drug dealer wanted me to come back to the room and go to bed with him, but I didn’t want to, so he kicked me out,” Breanna said.
Desperate to avoid sleeping on the streets where she would be even more vulnerable, she agreed to spend the night in another trafficker’s room with two other girls he was selling.
“We overslept past check out and one of the girls from another room knocked on the door and said the cops were coming. At the time I was using (as most survivors do to numb the pain of our reality in the life), so I did what the trafficker said and got into his car. The next time I woke up we were almost to Miami.” Breanna recalled.
After being trafficked in Miami for some time, her trafficker decided to move to St Pete but Breanna recalls convincing him to stop in Sarasota instead. This choice led to a series of events that would ultimately save her life.
“The next morning, he went to go pick up a girl who had been trafficked with us. We didn’t know at the time, but she had gone to the hospital and reported that she had been sexual assaulted by the man who was trafficking us.”
From there, the police took the trafficker into custody and went to the hotel where Breanna and a few other girls were staying. During this process the authorities contacted Selah Freedom.
“It was Misty (from Selah Freedom’s Outreach Program), who came to the scene. She introduced herself and explained who Selah Freedom is and what they do.” Breanna remembers. “At the time I was using so I wasn’t convinced that we weren’t going to jail. I didn’t really trust anyone. Misty was so sweet and patient with us. She offered to take us back to the office where she gave us the option of joining the Residential Program, but I just wasn’t ready. I didn’t want to accept my trauma and face it head on.”
Breanna and Misty stayed in contact for a year after the sting took place.
Breanna remembers, “Her just being there for me and telling me whenever I decided I was ready was all the comfort I needed. Misty never pushed me to do something I wasn’t ready to do, and I am so grateful I was able to decide on my own when I was ready to come into the program. I don’t know if I would have been receptive to Selah Freedom, had my choices been made for me.”
Breanna’s story led her to Selah Freedom, where she now works as a case manager with the Outreach Program. Here she is able to mentor girls and provide them with services such as counseling, group sessions, housing, etc. She is able to walk alongside girls in their journey to bettering their lives and stepping into the freedom they deserve.
When asked what she felt was the most rewarding thing about working for Selah Freedom, she brought up Thursday’s.
“Before COVID-19, every Thursday I would lead a self-esteem group in Sarasota County Jail. Several different times women I had been in the life with would recognize me and look as if they had seen a ghost because they had thought I was dead. To see the looks on their faces and the hope in their eyes, there is no words to describe it.” Breanna said. The transformation in her life helps victims discover that they were made for so much more, and when they are ready, Breanna and the Selah Freedom team are there to help them take the next steps.
The most valuable thing Breanna says she has learned is how to love yourself. “Ever since I was little, I didn’t know how to love myself. A big thing that I have gotten out of this journey is how to learn to love myself unconditionally. I think that’s one of the reasons I am where I am at today.”
If you take one thing away from this article, know that there is hope. To any women who are in the life, there is a way out and life is so much better. Breanna expressed that at her lowest point in life she didn’t see herself living past the age of twenty-five.
She now lives a life she never imagined possible for herself and is helping others do the same.