The Catholic Charities DIGNITY Diversion program is an intensive education-based program for women who have been arrested for prostitution. The program provides the opportunity to avoid jail time and to divert women from reoffending.

Tuesday, 08 September 2015

Survivor, Scholar, Teacher

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Survivor, Scholar, Teacher photo by © Goodluz |

In two years, Lynn's life went from normal to horrific.

At age 14, her parents divorced. She went from carefree to caring for her siblings, as her mom worked late hours to provide for them. At age 15, she used marijuana and alcohol to number her pain -- and stayed out all night with an older crowd.

Everything Changed

A turning point came one night when she was taken to a party and gang raped. She still doesn’t remember everything from that night, because she blacked out.

“I changed, I was afraid to tell my mom. She had warned me to stay away from the crowd I was running with," said Lynn. "I wouldn’t tell my dad either."

Decades passed before Lynn told her mother what happened to her that night.

Lynn graduated from high school at age 17. She attended a university for two semesters--but dropped out due it being too stressful.

That same year, her boyfriend died in a car crash on his way to see her. She felt it was her fault. At a party. she was introduced to heroin and cocaine. The drugs numbed all of the emotions she was feeling--and all the stress, anxiety, anger, hurt and shame disappeared. She had a kind of peace for the first time.

Addiction and Prostitution

By age 18, Lynn was addicted to heroin. She worked in strip clubs, escort services and massage parlors to get money for drugs.

At 22 years old, she changed her lifestyle. She quit drugs and got regular jobs, until those feelings of pain, shame and anger started rising up in her. She started drinking and using marijuana to help with her emotional pain.  

Her adult life was a cycle of getting clean, then going back to drugs and alcohol. On one long stretch, she was married until her husband became abusive. The traumas that she lived through in her early teens continued to haunt her.

She left her husband to live on the streets. For three years, she was homeless. She was sex trafficked and took drugs to cope with the pain.

Living with Dignity

In 1999, Lynn got arrested for prostitution. While she was in jail, she saw a flyer about the Catholic Charities programs for people wanting to leave the life of drugs and prostitution. She entered the program and graduated from it.

After she remained sober for two years, she was hired for Catholic Charities Diversion Program. She worked with the program for five years and continues to help as a contractor and volunteer. She understands the women coming into the program and lets them know there is hope.

Letting Go of the Past

As she continues to rebuild her life, she still faces challenges. “It’s been hard, I always have to prove myself,” said Lynn. 

While it's been 16 years since her time of living on the streets, she still has to explain her former life with each new endeavor. But she continues to move forward. Lynn received her bachelor’s degree in social and behavioral science and her master’s in education leadership. She is currently working on her doctorate in organizational leadership and development. 

She's also worked to heal the broken trust with her family. Her brother was the first to begin a new relationship. He convinced the rest of Lynn's family that she was in recovery and making healthy choices. Today, her parents are very proud of her, and she loves being “the best aunt ever” to her nephews and nieces.

Catholic Charities programs help to heal sex trafficked victims like Lynn.  “Catholic Charities was truly divine intervention," said Lynn.

Lynn was able to have a new beginning. You can help women like Lynn by supporting our sex trafficking programs with a monthly gift and bring a miracle into a sex trafficked survivor's life.

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