My name is Amy and this is my story…
A safe house in Niagara had only been open for a few weeks when I first heard about it. A house – a home – specifically for women like me… a survivor of human trafficking. I wanted to see what it was all about, but I was scared to leave. What if I tried to escape and got caught? What if I couldn’t take care of myself and had to come back? When I was finally able to call the YW and ask a staff member what the safe house could mean for me, we quickly devised a plan for me to meet with a worker.
It was easy to gather the small number of items I owned to move into the safe house. I was placed in a room at the Safe House with a young woman with a similar experience as me. It is heart-breaking to think that all the awful things that happened to me in my past also could have happened to someone else too – someone so young, no less.
As I settled into the house, I worked with the staff to recognize my trauma and set boundaries that I hope to keep from falling back into those same circumstances as before. In just a short time, I started to feel like a different, stronger person. I finally got a surgery I’d needed for years but was never able to get. And I am now working towards clearing my juvenile criminal record – at 13, I knew stealing was wrong, but you have to believe me when I say I didn’t have any other option at the time. Together, the workers and I starting developing a plan for my future – what did I want to do? What kind of job did I want to have? Just a few months in, I built up the courage to call my son who I have missed for far too long.
After a few months in the safe house, I couldn’t believe how much my life had already changed. So many of my fears about escaping my trafficker had been combatted by the progress I made with the staff. Now (I can’t even believe I am saying this), I am ready to take the next steps and branch out on my own. I am so grateful for all of the support the safe house staff provided to me, and I know there is another woman out there who needs them just as much as I did.
In January, I applied to the YWCA Off-Site Transitional Housing program and… I was accepted! I was so excited! Even when the first apartment I looked at didn’t end up working out, I wasn’t discouraged. With help from the Outreach Worker at the safe house, I was able to find the perfect place! I moved into my new home in the first week of February. Finally, for the first time in years, I am independent, free from trafficking and so incredibly proud of myself.
The safe house workers kept telling me how strong I have been throughout this experience. When I was at my lowest, they always encouraged me to keep fighting, to keep advocating for myself and my healing. The staff told me about the hundreds (maybe thousands) of people in Niagara rooting for me. Across the Region, they said, there are people who have never met me, who don’t even know my name, encouraging me through their gifts to and support of the YW. It feels so good to have them rooting for me. And to know I have accomplished so much because of their support.
Now, as I sit in my very own home, I think of all the women that will come into the safe house after me. Thank you for rooting for me after all these months. I ask that you root for the next woman too because she is going to need your help just as much as I did. I know that I am rooting for her. I hope she is able to reclaim her life the way I was able to.
You can help the next survivor of human trafficking to access the Home, to New Beginnings Safer House by donating to the YWCA Niagara Region.