Constance’s Christmas Wish
Recidivism. It isn’t a topic anyone wants to hear about when it comes to the women in our job creation program. But recidivism is part of the reality of working with broken people.
Meet Constance. She has a dry wit. She can deadpan a joke so well her listeners are left baffled, or in stitches. Constance is the mother of a fun and energetic 12-year-old boy. You can see her spark and quick wit in the eyes of her son.
Constance is also a survivor of trafficking. She is HIV positive, a disease that serves as just one of the many lifelong reminders of her former life. And, on top of everything else, she is an alcoholic.
To see Constance a few months ago, you would hardly believe the woman she once was. Her tall, strong, full figure has wasted away to mere skin and bones. Her beautiful long hair and smooth skin have been ravished by the effects of the disease that will one day kill her. If you knew her 4 years ago, you would hardly recognize her now.
One of the less talked about effects of trafficking is the way traffickers use drugs and alcohol. Some use it to lure rebellious children into a dangerous friendship. Others use it to create dependency among their victims, which creates new levels of vulnerability to persuasion and control.
That is Constance’s story. As a child on the streets, she was fed alcohol and forced to endure unspeakable horrors by a vicious pimp. Now she is released from the streets, but not from the chemical dependency she acquired there.
Not long ago Constance found herself back on the streets. The pressures of “clean living” were weighing too much on her. One day, the demons she fights as an alcoholic won the battle and, that night, Constance woke up in the gutter. Ashamed, she continued her binge for weeks. Workers from our after-care facility partners reached out to her over and over, trying to persuade her to come back home. Constance didn’t budge.
Then one day another one of our girls went to see her. No one asked this girl to go. She simply went. She talked to Constance about her own struggles with an alcohol addiction. She told her not to give up on herself. She reminded her of her son. She invited her to come home. That day ended differently, Constance decided to follow the other girl home.
Before Free The Girls, these two women didn’t interact, but their shared experiences allowed them to share their strength and to care for each other. Now that Constance is back home, she is well on her way to regaining her health. She is selling bras and trying to live a “clean” life. She has regained much of her lost weight and her hair is beginning to grow back. She still struggles with her health, and her demons, but everyday she makes the effort to stay strong and stay clean for her son. It is the only thing she wishes for in life: freedom from the past, freedom in future, freedom always for her son. Free The Girls is just one piece of that freedom.
Update: We are sad to report that Constance died from complications related to being HIV positive. We hope her memory serves to inspire abolitionists to continue to fight human trafficking in all forms and all places. ~Melissa Watson, National Director