Can I Have your Life?

"So do you think I could ever have a life like yours? This is all I've ever known." Tani, a small African American women, said to me as we sat in the case managers office talking about what's next now that she is out of jail. Like so many times before, she had been locked up again for prostitution. She was also seven months pregnant.

Carrie, her case worker, had asked me to come in to this meeting with her and Tani.  Carrie Dicarlo works with ex-offenders, most of them are prostitutes, she is their case manager through a federally funded program called Step Out, which helps ex-offenders to find jobs, housing and education. Carrie is amazing. her heart for these women is filled with the love Jesus has for them.

Before Tani had asked me that question she had told me that she had left home at age 9 and started prostituting by age 11, she was beat by pimp/boyfriends off and on throughout her teen years, and eventually became addicted to drugs to kill the pain of life on the streets with no family. "sometime sex was for a sandwich, a ride from one place to another, whatever, that's how I got what I needed". She said. I imagined my daughter Evangeline at age 11, it was too painful. As I talked to Tani longer, it was clear that she was stuck at age 11 mentally. But in actuality she was 29 years old. She had already lost several children to the state, spent several years in jail, been addicted to drugs and been a prostitute for over 18 years of her life. Now she wanted to know if she could ever have a life like mine.  "Tani, if you go through this program that Carrie is getting you in to, I think you have a great shot at a normal life. A good life. It will take a lot of work on your part. It will take time, maybe years, who knows, but it is possible to turn your life around. You're in the right place to start on a path to a new life." As I told her this, I struggled. I knew everything I was saying was possible, I just could feel the weight of her life time sitting on top of all the hope. But I smiled at her. and she seemed content with that answer.

I know that the Step Out program that Carrie works for does so much to help these ladies get into housing, find jobs, find ways to further their education, and much more, But I also know that ladies like Tani need housing that is specifically for the rehabilitation of victims of sex trafficking. Tani needs years of counseling and therapy. She needs to be mentored by former prostitutes and people who understand from her side, so that is where my despair comes from. I feel she needs so much more then what is available to her right now. There are only six rehabilitative housing facilities in the United States, they stay full, and most of them are geared toward recently rescued victims of trafficking, not people like Tani. 

I saw Tani on Sunday at church. She was beaming. I was so glad she was there. She said she was at the program and doing good and as I hugged her I felt hopeful. I have to hang on to hope. I have to believe.

Join u tonight at the Tigers Against Trafficking Call and Response event at LSU to learn how you can join the fight against human trafficking.  Register and information HERE


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