“To me, my story is bad but not as bad as others,” said Taylor. At age 26, Taylor can recount a life filled with dysfunction, drugs, violence, sexual abuse and exploitation, and trafficking.
Taylor’s youngest memories are living with her mother. But life changed and at a young age, she spent time in a foster home, and then lived with her grandmother. This cycle of moving from one place to another would continue throughout adolescence.
Around the age of 11, Taylor moved back to her mother’s home. She had three siblings and Taylor felt like she needed to take care of them, especially since her mother had relapsed in using drugs.
Sold for Sex
They lived in an area with a lot of prostitution. A pimp sold her for sex for the first time at 12 years old. “I just thought about my siblings at home, they needed to eat,” said Taylor. The next morning she took her siblings to school then went to the grocery store. She bought cereal, milk, hot pockets, ramen noodles, toilet paper, soap and toothpaste. “I couldn’t buy anything you had to cook because I didn’t know how to cook,” said Taylor.
Taylor moved in with her dad at age 15. It was strange to have a family, a dad, step-mom, and step-sister. She had the chance at a whole new life, but it wouldn’t last. She attended a party and was drugged and gang raped.
She withdrew from people and didn’t want anyone touching her. She didn’t tell her dad and eventually moved back to her mom’s house.
Struggling to Live
Taylor was stuck between wanting to be a regular teenager with a deep feeling of self-destruction. She tried to kill herself three different times. “Then I thought, maybe there is a reason for me to be here,” said Taylor.
When Taylor moved in with her grandmother at the age of 19, she felt like a weight had been lifted off her shoulders. A few years later her grandmother died, she had nowhere to go. She worked the streets for money, living in motels, drinking and doing drugs to numb the pain. She also became pregnant.
Taylor had a high-risk pregnancy with both her and her baby in danger. She had an emergency caesarian at seven months. “After my son was born, I turned things around,” said Taylor. She moved between different family members, trying to find a suitable place for her son.
Eventually, she made the decision to let her brother and sister-in-law have guardianship of her son. She knew she couldn’t provide the life he needed. She didn’t want him to grow up like she did.
Trapped in Sex Trafficking
She wanted to create a better life. She got a good job with benefits at a large retail company. She worked hard and got her own apartment. One month, she was short on rent. She met a guy who said he would help her out, but he was really a pimp and started to control her every move.
She lost her job, but was eventually able to escape from her pimp.
The last two years were hard. Taylor has been robbed, assaulted, held at gun point and lived through the unimaginable. She was also arrested for prostitution. “I had so much anger, pain and frustration, I knew I was done,” said Taylor.
A New Beginning Filled with Hope
She came to Catholic Charities Dignity Diversion program, an intensive education-based program to divert women from reoffending. This program includes a 36-hour educational class, rehabilitation services that offer support, education and resources as well as life skills class. Once classes are completed the charges can be dismissed.
She now has a good job, one that makes her feel proud. “I’m happy!” said Taylor. “I have my son back, and I’m learning how to be a mom, how to cope with this world.”
“The Diversion program helps you open up. It brought up a lot of stuff I tried to cover up and hide. I learned where I came from doesn’t have to determine my future. The things I went through made me strong and independent,” said Taylor.
Now Taylor realizes that she has value and she is determined to provide for her son and give him a great life.