Mercy Restores Hope to Sex Trafficked Women
January 11, 2016
January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month. For over three decades, Mercy Multiplied has helped thousands of young women overcome life-controlling issues, including sex trafficking. Even with the rise of sex trafficking awareness and crack down in America in recent years, Mercy continues to annually serve a steady number of young women who have been sexually abused and exploited.
“Life before Mercy was hell,” said Francis, one such victim.
At the hands of a family member, Francis began to be sexually abused at the age of six. By the age of 10, the abuse had escalated to sex trafficking. “Through that, I was taught that my purpose and my value was found in sex and in just serving men in any way,” she said. “I really took that on as my identity. I took that on as who I was.”
As a result of the abuse, a deep depression consumed Francis. She turned to alcohol and pain killers to cope. Though the trafficking ended when she was 13, the damage was done. Her self-worth skewed, Francis’ only goal in life was to become a stripper or a prostitute. She said, “I figured, what’s the point in me getting a high school diploma?” She dropped out of school at age 15.
“After I dropped out, things just really hit rock bottom,” Francis said. Hopeless, she overdosed several times and began to self-harm. A phone call from her mom was the turning point. “One day my mom called me, and she told me about a program called Mercy,” said Francis.
Francis applied and entered the Mercy program. “It really took me a while to understand and grasp the fact that when they [Mercy staff] looked at me, they weren’t seeing my file. They weren’t seeing the things I had done. They weren’t seeing the things I’d been through. They saw Francis. They saw this girl who has a future. That’s something that I never saw.” she said.
Francis graduated from Mercy in 2014 with the tools and perspective necessary to live free from the bondage that once controlled her. “Freedom to me looks like getting up every day and not dreading every second, and being able to just live life with a joy and with a peace just knowing that God is by my side…that through Him I can do everything,” she said.
Francis is now multiplying the hope and healing she experienced at Mercy through her work with at-risk youth at the St. Louis Dream Center. “Freedom is being able to look in the face of young girls every day and just tell them that they’re not what life has told them they are, and being able to show them that this is where I was, but this is where I am through the power of God.”
The U.S Department of State estimates one million children are exploited by the international sex trade. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reports that there are 100,000 to 300,000 underage girls being sold for sex in America. The numbers are staggering, but stories like Francis’ prove there is hope. To support Mercy Multiplied in making a difference in the battle against trafficking, please click here.