Whatever you think you might know about sex trafficking and prostitution, think again.
A metro Detroit woman says it’s more like modern-day slavery than the the money-making profession one might assume.
After years of feeling trapped, Sarah, whose name has been changed to protect her from a lifestyle she's left behind, thanks to something simple: Love.
She shared her story with Local 4.
"I know what hell is like. People don't know what hell is like until you live that lifestyle," she said. "I think the sex came first and then the crack cocaine."
A runaway at the age of 14, Sarah was introduced to hard drugs and sex for money in exchange for a roof over her head.
"I was on crack cocaine,” Sarah said. “I got on crack cocaine and I was hanging in the streets going to after-hours clubs, dancing at a bar, you know, doing the bar tendering and they was having sex trafficking in there and so that's what it started from. It was free. It was the happening thing to do and it was freely given to you."
It wasn't long before she found herself addicted.
Sarah traded sex for money to fuel her habit, often times putting herself in potentially deadly situations.
"You don't know who you was getting in the car with," she said. "Guns done been pulled on me. I done been raped by several individuals at one time. Walking in the streets late at night, [you] don't know who's going to jump out at you. Don't care but you're taking a chance just to get high."
Many times, Sarah wanted out, but like many trapped in the underground world of prostitution, she felt controlled. She was controlled by her addiction. She was controlled by the so-called "drug daddies," who demanded she give them the cash she received for performing sex acts. In exchange, they would give her the crack cocaine she craved.
"It was never set how much money you make, and I look back, I never really counted the money. I was running straight to the drug house," Sarah said.
But while these stories often end in tragedy, Sarah was able to turn her life around.
Sarah has been clean and off the streets for nearly four years. She credits a local non-profit called "All Worthy of Love" for saving her life.
"We work with women and men engaged in the lifestyle of prostitution," said All Worthy of Love founder Lindsey Fisher. "You would take a person and just love on them and encourage them and through that they would find the will in themselves to get clean from drugs, do better for themselves. For our instances, we want them to find God and know what their purpose in life is."
Fisher and her team hit the streets of Detroit every week to feed, encourage, and pray with people like Sarah.
"It's definitely not easy by any means,” explains Fisher. “I never anticipate it being what it is. We definitely go into a neighborhood that is rough. We go into the Detroit that the other 49 states talk about. I've never been afraid."
And though it takes time to build a level of trust with the women, and show that their intentions are pure, Sarah is proof that it's working.
"Their prayers alone,” said Sarah. "I used to be getting high and they'd send the prayer van out there and I’d stop because I know I needed prayer."
After months of seeing the volunteers show up and pray with other, Sarah said something clicked.
"I was tired of getting locked up. I was tired of not having [an] identity. I was desperate. Desperation. I was trying to find myself. I wanted something different," Sarah said.
Sarah trusted the volunteers and took them up on their offer to take her to a safe place and get her clean. Now, four years and many treatment sessions later, she has her minister's license and counsels others caught up in prostitution.
"Your body is a temple of God. You don't have to use your body to live anywhere. I'm here today just thanking God ... for All Worthy of Love."
All Worthy of Love operates thanks to volunteers and help from the community, but it's not easy.
If you're interested in helping whether through your time or financially, visit their Facebook page here.