WARNING: not my typical post and it contains some difficult topics. This post is about my friend Kelly…we had the privilege of welcoming her into our home for a transitional period…she’s doing great things now and is giving back to the people and rehab facility that saved her. God can do powerful things!
by Chloe Magee
Kelly was the very first woman in CTA’s program that I had ever met. I had gone out on one street outing previously in October, but then I had to take a break to finish getting my degree. When I came back in April, it was only my second outing through CTA. Things were running differently than the previous time I had been out, so I was standing back in Corey’s house watching everyone go about their business (Corey is another member of CTA who is heavily involved with our street ministry). I remembered people talking and saying that Timon and Kelly were going to be coming out with us, but considering the fact that they were just getting back from a long road trip, they were running late.
The only thing I had heard about Kelly prior to her pulling up with Timon was that she was on a 48-hour pass from the rehabilitation center and would be coming with us. I was not really sure what to expect of Kelly, but even though I didn’t really have any expectations, she still surprised me. When Kelly got out of the car and walked into Corey’s house, I remember almost doing a double take. Here was this woman who was confident, poised, and had more fashion sense than even I did. The thing that surprised me most about her was that she seemed fearless. I remember watching her get suited up with her radio and bulletproof vest showing absolutely no nerves. She just had the biggest smile on her face.
Not everyone that was in the van that night knew her story, so throughout the night we learned a little bit more about her as the group asked her questions about where she came from and some of what she went through, never once seeming phased by any of it. I remember sitting directly behind Kelly in the van just listening to her and watching. All I could think the entire time was that had I met this woman in any other scenario, I would have never guessed she has the past that she does—it’s like that with most of the women in our program, come to think of it.
That night, we ended up rescuing a woman and taking her to the hospital, and it wasn’t until we had to sit in the waiting room for several hours that I got to talk to Kelly more. For having only known me a couple of hours, she was fairly open with me about her past and time in rehab. After that first encounter, I never really received the chance to get to know Kelly more until she moved in with her sponsor family. I have been able to witness firsthand that she is powerful, a force to be reckoned with, and when she gets her mind to something there is no stopping her. She is also incredibly creative and artistic, can make friends with anyone and make them instantly feel at ease, and yes, she does still have more fashion sense than I do.
by Brianna Molitor
Born and raised in Michigan on June 3, 1986, Kelly‘s memory of her childhood is limited. However, the select memories she has are of events that shaped her thinking and beliefs for years to come. At a young age, she was exposed to pornography and sexual exploitation through the porn her father kept in the bathroom. He also dated strippers, and early exposure to their profession led to her and her friends dancing in provocative clothing to imitate them at the age of seven. The early exposure to sex “formed an idea of a woman’s worth and where it comes from,” skewing her perception of how women are expected to behave as well as look, which contributed to a battle with an eating disorder later in life.
She also suffered from anxiety attacks, which were triggered by a childhood event. When she was about three years old, a man tried to break into her house. He attempted to enter through the window, where her mother was near. The sight of her mother panicking once she realized a man was trying to enter their home left her with intense anxiety, and this fear lingered for years. The lack of interest in solving the break-in on the police’s part did not ease her fear either.
At age eight, her mother took her and her brother to their father’s house and left them there for six months, despite the promise that she’d be back at the end of the weekend. Kelly blamed herself for her mother’s disappearance, “not realizing at the time that my mother was a human being struggling with her own issues.” The event left Kelly feeling insecure and began her battle with abandonment issues.
Her drug use began when she was 11, starting with marijuana. She also began sneaking out of her house to meet boys. She was drinking to the point of blacking out by 13. Cocaine, ecstasy, OxyContin, and mushrooms were used by 16, and she started skipping school. She moved out of her house and in with her boyfriend, and became pregnant. She had an abortion, and continued to focus her energy on partying, to the point that “it consumed my life.” At 19, she smoked crack for the first time.
However, around the same time, she decided to change her lifestyle. Kelly began working for an airline and moved to Charlotte, North Carolina. Once things were starting to look up, she had an accident and injured her knee, requiring surgery. The prescription pills she was given triggered her old ways. She changed careers to bartending and started partying again. She considered it just having fun, as any young adult does at that age, until she turned 21 and tried heroin for the first time.
She thought she could handle it. She thought she could control herself, just try it once and be done. But heroin is one of the most addictive drugs, and Kelly was hooked after her first use. Becoming addicted to heroin was the first step to her life unraveling, followed by having her car repossessed and relocating back to Michigan.
Kelly thought she had established boundaries for her behavior, but those boundaries kept being pushed further and further back with her descent into drug addiction. She recognized that there was a problem and tried rehabilitation centers multiple times.
“I wanted to get better but I didn’t know how,” she said, looking back on her past. At one point, she gave up on recovery completely and attempted suicide with pills. As she spiraled out of control, her family could only watch in horror. They tried their best to help her through her recovery, but she “was like a tornado,” and made it nearly impossible for them to assist her. There is a guilt that still lingers with Kelly about what her family had to experience while she was fighting her own battles with drug use and self-hatred.
After four long years of failed family interventions and attempts at recovery, she cut off contact with her family altogether. She believed it would be easier for everyone that way.
Now on her own and needing money to get her fix, Kelly started using sex as a barter for drugs. She entered into a “mutual business relationship” with a drug dealer. Someone she knew at the time offered her a place to stay, and introduced her to a website where she could post advertisements for her body in exchange for money. She started using a different name to create a distance between the lifestyle she was living and who she believed she truly was. “It made it seem like it wasn’t actually me doing those things,” she said. Along with changing her name, she turned off her emotions, using drugs as an assistant, to help her cope with her new lifestyle. The entire goal was to get money for her addiction, so it became an endless cycle of prostitution and drugs.
Later on, she met a man with whom she relied on completely. He recognized her desire for love and attention, and used it to manipulate her. However, she was too young and naïve to realize it at the time. This was the first time Kelly had been physically abused. He degraded her, choked and raped her, and placed guilt back on her rather than where the blame truly belonged- on him. Every time she would prepare herself to leave, he managed to lure her back in with the promise that the abuse will not happen again and the hope that things will be different. “I truly was wrapped up in him and was being completely used,” and that was his intention in their relationship.
She was trapped in his hold for nine months, wanting to leave but having nowhere to go. Fortunately, she contacted a friend for help. She kept her situation vague, trying to keep the details to a minimum. However, her phone was shut off soon after and her friend, determined to find and help her, searched for her on the internet and found her online advertisements.
The friend then contacted Compassion to Act in North Carolina, who in turn reached out to Timon Dawson for help. With the assistance of Mercy Movement, they found her and “showed up when I had no strength to fight for myself.” She did not expect to be recused, and when they first arrived, she was completely brainwashed by the abusive relationship.
When asked if she wanted to leave, she said no.
But CTA understood how manipulation and dependency could affect someone, and were adamant that if she changed her mind, she could always reach them. A little while later, Kelly escaped and called CTA, committing herself to change.
She was sent to a faith-based rehab center in Ohio, and has since completed the program. The rehab was started by a preacher’s wife who, after overcoming her own battle with addiction, dedicated her life to helping others addicts. She believes that the fact that the rehab was centered around Christ allowed her to make the transformation she could not reach at other rehab centers. “I was broken when I first arrived [at the rehab facility],” but now Kelly has learned to love herself and can objectively see the reality of her past situation. “I learned that real beauty comes from within, and that my worth comes from God. Only because of him, I am beautiful.”
A few months ago, a chance encounter once again changed Kelly’s life. A school teacher volunteered her time to help transport Kelly back to the rehab center after she earned a pass for the weekend. After what Kelly describes as “an instant connection,” she opened up her home to Kelly, allowing her to move in with the family after she completed her rehabilitation. “God knew exactly what I needed,” and her healthy relationship with her new father-figure is allowing her to heal wounds inflicted years ago.
Now, she works and is heavily involved with her church. She enjoys creating artwork as an expression of her emotions. Her family in Michigan are comforted with the thought that she is now safe and recovering, and she has recently rekindled her relationship with her mother. They just got matching tattoos of a semicolon, “representing where the author could have ended the story, but chose not to.”
Kelly is still working on healing, and part of that process includes going out on street ministry and helping those in similar situations. She learned that she was “the rule, not the exception” when it comes to abusive treatment, and her experiences are not as rare as she once believed. “It happens every day, everywhere, and it’s not right.”
Kelly was originally hesitant to share her story, but her passion towards helping others who have or are experiencing a similar situation motivated her to agree to an interview. It’s important to her that no one is ever taken advantage of like she was, and that people know that abusive and manipulative relationships are unacceptable. The treatment she faced happens every day and must change.
In her own words, Kelly describes her rescue as “miraculous,” requiring “many people who were willing to heed God’s calling.” This began with the friend who chose not to look the other way in the face of injustice, but actively fight against it. She reached out to others who were equally dedicated to saving the lives of those in trouble, specifically those who are held captive by human trafficking.
As awareness rises and more stories of survival and recovery are told, the more victims and allies alike will feel empowered. No longer must someone feel as though they are beyond redemption, and that they are too far gone to recover from their mistakes. And no longer must others read about these crimes and feel helpless, for even acting on a vague phone call from a friend can completely change someone’s life for the better. The fight to end human trafficking is no longer a hopeless cause, and CTA will continue to work until every victim can have a survivor’s story, just like Amy, and just like Kelly.