Human trafficking involves the use of coercion to obtain labor or commercial sex. Every year, millions of men, women, and children are trafficked worldwide; victims can vary in age, race, gender, and nationality. Traffickers often start the cycle by gaining the trust of the survivor, offering a romantic relationship or friendship. Breaking out of this pattern is incredibly difficult. Trafficking survivors need multiple levels of support to start healing and regain independence.
PRIDE Industries and 3Strands Global Foundation, an organization that combats human trafficking through prevention education and reintegration programs, have partnered to provide employment opportunities to survivors and at-risk youth. Shemeca, a participant in these programs, has graciously agreed to share her story.
Breaking the Human Trafficking Cycle
“My mother was a human trafficking survivor; I too fell into the same vicious cycle of abuse. The pattern started after a boyfriend in college assaulted me. My friends didn’t understand what I went through, and I felt like I couldn’t talk to anyone. I lost my confidence and self-worth.”
Shemeca survived many years of abuse by different traffickers. “I was kidnapped, assaulted, and sometimes held at gunpoint. I thought that the only way to earn my trafficker’s respect was by earning money. I didn’t know my own self-worth and had to play by their rules. I now understand that it was abuse, not love.”
After moving to California in 2017, Shemeca was determined to make a fresh start away from her abusers. Transitioning to a new path was frightening, including breaking a drug habit, Shemeca was determined to move forward.
“My faith has been my way of coping through rough situations and gives me the courage to move ahead,” she shared.
PRIDE’s Trafficking Survivor Assistance Program
After entering safe housing and graduating from an introductory program, Shemeca was connected to 3Strands Global Foundation, which referred to her to PRIDE Industries’ trafficking survivor assistance program.
Shemeca needed to rejoin the workforce to gain independence and start to build a career. However, with limited resources for school and gaps in her resume, she soon became discouraged.
To help Shemeca overcome these obstacles, PRIDE Job Developer Lisa Huizenga assisted with navigating the referral process of government and nonprofit resource programs, including the California Department of Rehabilitation. They worked together to develop her resume and cover letter, arranged for transportation, and purchased professional work clothes.
“To get this amount of support later in my life is incredible,” said Shemeca. “Knowing that I had people behind me ultimately gave me the strength to heal and develop healthier habits.”
A Bright Future for Trafficking Survivors
The perfect opportunity came when PRIDE placed Shemeca into an internship at 3Strands, funded by donations to PRIDE’s Development and Donor Services. She has been a crucial contributor to the organization’s Break Free Run, a 5K/10K walk/run, that also hosts live music and food vendors.
“In my role, I am responsible for coordinating different details of the event, completing outreach assignments, and making phone calls to potential runners and donors,” said Shemeca.
“Although I was hesitant to tell my story at first, I began to see how it made more people aware of this silent crisis happening around them. It made me find my own voice.”
“Regardless of the many trials and setbacks that Shemeca has encountered throughout her life, she has remained steadfast and focused on her goals,” said Lisa. “With her drive and courage, she truly encourages other survivors that they too can overcome their pasts.”
It has meant the world to Shemeca to be able to help other human trafficking survivors to start a new life. “This internship has been an amazing opportunity,” she said. “I hope to start a nonprofit to help trafficked women rise above their circumstances and gain freedom.”
Shemeca’s internship with 3Strands will end in November when she is expecting the arrival of a new child. In the meantime, she is focused on finishing her education at Sacramento City College.
“Continuing to attend college will be a challenge, but I’m determined to work through this,” said Shemeca. “I’m excited about my future and finding a stable career and housing. You can fall back in life, but ultimately, it’s how you pick yourself up that matters.”
Thanks to PRIDE Industries’ generous donors, Shemeca will continue to receive job and career support as she finishes her degree, effectively breaking the cycle of abuse and building a positive future. We are proud of how far she has come.