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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Sex trafficking is a terrible reality in Middle Tennessee, and one survivor is sharing her story of survival with News 2.
As she clutched a teddy bear, the woman said she is afraid to be identified “because he’s still out there, because I didn’t have the courage to press charges when this all happened.”
She chose to speak with News 2 in hopes that it will help even one victim of trafficking and abuse.
“You are worth saving. You’re worth saving. I was worth saving,” she stressed, speaking out to victims.
She met her trafficker when she was just 15 years old.
“He did some really bad things,” she explained.
He served prison time but came back into her life when she was 27, now divorced with a young daughter.
She thought he had changed.
“It took me a while to put together that he was drugging my drinks,” she told News 2.
But it did not take long for her to put together why.
“The type of people that would purchase me… It would be the most sadistic of the sadistic,” she shared. “The ones where the more you cried and the more you screamed, the more they enjoyed it.”
Selling her body paid for his drug addiction, and she never knew who, or for how long, she would be brutalized.
One time she tried to resist by slamming a door in her husband’s face.
“The next thing I remember, after that I remember waking up and my daughter was screaming. I didn’t know I was pregnant yet,” she said. “My daughter was screaming and my entire body hurt and there were a lot of people in my house I didn’t know.”
She then realized she had been out two entire weeks.
“I lost two weeks,” she told News 2. “I had 14 wounds stitched up with fishing wire.”
She believes those cuts, all over her chest, were most likely the result of blood-letting ritual.
By now, you’re probably wondering why she couldn’t just run away from her pimp. But the fact of the matter is the man selling her wasn’t a pimp; he was her husband.
“When we got married, he was holding a knife to my back in the courthouse. They didn’t know he had gotten it in,” she said.
The psychological weapons her yielded were just as powerful.
“You know, living in addiction and having suffered some form of sexual abuse from the time I was five, your feeling of self-worth is nonexistent. You are spiritually bankrupt. So while I know logically I’m capable of good things, I didn’t feel like I deserved any of those,” she said. “I feel I was conditioned to believe I was only worth something I could provide physically.”
And so the trafficking continued, but now she was carrying her husband’s son.
“As a reward for being pregnant, he sold me to a man who tied me to a tree for three days at Percy Priest Lake.”
She survived that, and unbelievably gave birth to a healthy baby.
“The day I did that, I gave him a choice– he could either leave or kill me,” she told News 2.
He did leave, and our survivor got by for many more years the only way she knew how: sex.
It was a minor charge that brought her into contact with Davidson County Judge Casey Moreland, who recognized the signs of sex trafficking and instead of throwing her in jail reached out to help.
She told him her story, revealing her fishing wire scars.
“I mean her story is just heartbreaking. But gosh what an inspiration she is. I mean she’s so strong. I wish I was that strong,” said Judge Moreland.
A new court had just been formed–not for pressing charges but for healing hearts.
It’s called Cherished H.E.A.R.T.S. Click here for more about the court.
“They helped with a bus pass before I got my license back, by taking care of a lot of those costs because I didn’t have a job yet. I’m still pretty early in recovery. I’ve got almost a year,” she explained.
She was one of the first to come into the court in February and is now the first graduate.
“I’m not a victim today. I’m a survivor today. I’m a graduate today,” she said proudly. “I have a higher power that didn’t put me through those things, but allowed me to go through them because I was strong enough to survive it. Maybe my story can help that one person break free from whatever it is they are going through.”
Our survivor wants others in her situation to get out.
If you have even a moment alone, call 911 and leave your phone on or try slipping somebody a note at a public place like a grocery store.
News 2 is committed to tracking crime across Middle Tennessee. Visit wkrn.com/crimetracker for more coverage.