Human trafficking survivor helps others rebuild their lives

Holly Christine Hayes founded Sanctuary Project to help female survivors find a steady income as they continue to heal and move forward.
3:50 | 01/25/21

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Transcript for Human trafficking survivor helps others rebuild their lives
human trafficking awareness month and our next guest makes it her mission to help those affected. She escaped a life threatening situation of trafficking violence and is a victim herself of ongoing abuse. She has beaten the odds and is now dedicating herself to helping other survivors move forward in their lives. That's right. And joining us now to share her powerful story of redemption is founder of the sanctuary project, holly Christine Hayes. Holly, thank you so much for being with us. Every year, millions of people are trafficked around the world, and just recently, 33 missing children were rescued out of los Angeles. There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding human trafficking, and I think a lot of people probably think it couldn't happen here. It's not happening in this country. What are some of those myths? So, I think the first thing to remember is that trafficking is not an over there problem. A lot of people think about it is as happening in southeast Asia or Africa or the middle East. More and more we're discovering that this is happening right here in Americas. And some of the myths are that it's usually a kidnapping situation, and maybe we've seen a movie where a child is taken, and then trafficked. And the biggest misconception is that the overwhelming majority of trafficking cases are actually happening to a known person. So a boyfriend, a family member, or someone a young child or a young adolescent meets online, develops a relationship with and then is pulled into an exploitive situation. If you don't mind sharing just a little here, you're a survivor yourself, just sharing a little bit about those circumstances. What was one of the biggest challenges in you, not just getting out, but then being able to thrive once you got out of that situation? Yes, so my situation was what we commonly see here in America, is it happened through a boyfriend. And you know, he developed trust with me, and then the relationship became violent and then ultimately exploited. Some of the factors that led to that for me were having an addiction that I was struggling with and there was some childhood sexual abuse that had also set the stage for that. A lot of times that's what we're seeing in the girls coming out of trafficking. They're not just recovering from that trafficking situation, or that sexual exploitation, they're also recovering from addiction also and recovering from that violence. They're recovering from often a life of trauma, coming out of the foster care system, and so we, we want to make sure that we're coming alongside these, these women, and offering the opportunities to get education, and to develop new skills. I had dropped out of high school. I hadn't finished my college degree, and so a lot of what I needed to rebuild was getting that resume built up, getting that education completed, and then finding dignified employment. And you are now helping others with those very issues. The sanctuary project, like all businesses and organizations during this pandemic, it has been very difficult to stay afloat. How have you pivoted to make things work? Like so many small business, a lot of what we did was focus very locally. So we were supported primarily by local fundraisers as a nonprofit or pop-up shops selling our jewelry line. So we had to really pivot, and share our mission, more national, and it's been really incredible to see how the whole nation has welcomed us, and has accepted us. Our line just got picked up by target.com, which is really excited, and that's providing so many more employment opportunities coming out of trafficking, violence and addiction. Thank you for sharing your story and being willing to be so open and share and it will help a lot of folks. You've been at this work for sometime now. Congratulations for what you're doing and god bless you moving forward.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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