It felt like I’d been trying to get out forever. It’s been two years, at least, since I first started living in this cycle of taking one step forward and two steps back.
My traffickers were arrested and the police brought me to another shelter. I knew it was only a short-term solution and if I didn’t get help quickly, I would be back on the street in a few days. If I ended up there again, I was so scared of what it would mean for me. My mind couldn’t take it anymore, and I knew it wouldn’t take me long to find something to numb the pain. I didn’t want to be dependent on drugs again, but I didn’t know how else to cope.
I had been in shelters like that one before, and more than I cared to count. It happened the same way every time since my traffickers were caught. I would stay in a shelter for a little while and try to get back on my feet as fast as I could, but I never had enough time to get a job or find somewhere to stay. When my time was up, I would have to leave the shelter and I would fall back into all of the same things I was trying to escape from.
The other people in this shelter were the same as everywhere else. It seemed like I was a target for harassment and unwanted touching everywhere I went. It all started with the person I thought was my friend, who drugged me and sold me.
I clung to the hope that things could be different as tightly as I could, but I was quickly losing hope. My mind was going to places I was scared of, and I worried that I would hurt myself if things got bad again. I didn’t want to die, but I didn’t think I could live like that anymore.
I was so scared that it was too late to find someone to help me get back on my feet. When I got in touch with the Safe House Project team, I struggled to believe that they really wanted to help me get out for good. I didn’t have anywhere else to turn, so that felt like my last chance at making something different of my life.
When I was accepted to a safe home, I almost couldn’t believe it. I didn’t have an ID, so I would have to meet with TSA before I could board a plane to get there. The Safe House Project team set everything up for me, from an Uber to the airport to the TSA meeting to the flight itself.
The shelter I had been staying at told me I needed to leave on the same day I was supposed to start my journey to the safe home. When the Uber didn’t come to pick me up outside the shelter, I called Safe House Project to find out what was going on. They told me that it had come earlier and I had missed the ride, the meeting, and the flight. Someone at the shelter had cut the cord on my phone charger the night before, and I hadn’t heard my alarms.
I thought I had lost my one chance, but the team at Safe House Project didn’t give up on me. The next morning, I was on a bus for a two-day trip on my way to my place in the safe house. The driver knew to keep an eye out for me, and they sent me food at the stops along the way.
My three-month anniversary of living at this safe house is coming up soon, and I am still thankful for hot showers and warm beds, and a roof over my head. These last months, I have been learning how to trust that I won’t have to leave and that these people really care about helping me heal. I finally unpacked my suitcase that I had been keeping under the bed. It’s the same bed that I slept in my first night here, and I can’t remember the last time that has been a reality for me. I stopped setting extra food aside, and now I can trust that I will be cared for here.
I’ve also started dreaming about my future. I’m looking forward to continuing my education and learning skills for a normal job. I can see how therapy has been helping me come to terms with my past and be excited about what’s to come. When the regret feels overwhelming, I learned to journal and work through it. No matter what happened back then, I know now that I have the power to write the next chapter of my story.