DETROIT – January is National Human Trafficking Prevention Month, but one Detroit organization focuses on that issue all 12 months of the year.
Alternatives For Girls has been providing just that to girls for more than three decades.
“‘No’ means nothing in the world of sex trafficking,” survivor Lauren Sowell said. “Like, your voice means nothing.”
Sowell was only 14 when she was introduced to the underground world of sex trafficking. Then foster home run away, she was stopped on the street and offered a massage and money by a strange man. He invited her to his home and, with nowhere to go, she agreed.
“Once he saw that he can kind of manipulate me in a sense, he started grooming me,” Sowell said.
The grooming would lead to drug use and distribution, with multiple partners, at times, for payment. Her teenage years were stolen from her.
“There was no going home, and then it totally began to become out of control and I was introduced into a sex ring where every day I would get into a van,” Sowell said. “We would go into unmarked locations and we would go into houses.”
What happened inside was heartbreaking. She was trapped in that life for years. It too much for any child to bear.
“Most of the time, to be honest, I cried,” Sowell said. “Nobody knows the trauma of having to have 10 abortions and miscarriages. Nobody knows the lifestyle of having to be beaten and having to be branded, having to be marked up. Your soul becomes empty.”
Sowell was freed when her captor was shot and killed in a drive-by shooting. She worked to get her life together and fight her heroin addiction. That’s when Alternatives For Girls rescued her.
“Alternatives For Girls is amazing,” Sowell said.
“Alternatives For Girls is a non-profit based in Southwest Detroit,” CEO Amy Good said. “We’re 33 years old. We serve homeless and high-risk girls and young women. We operate a street outreach program. We drive around the streets and work with girls and women of all ages who are out there who are victims of sex trafficking.”
They worked with Sowell, helping her land on her feet, find public housing, pay off her bills and find employment. The nonprofit was an angel at some of her lowest points in life.
“There is hope inside those walls and inside those hearts of the people there,” Sowell said.
“We are out there as a compassionate response to their situation,” Good said. “We address their immediate needs. We do not pass judgement. We let them know that we are here for them if and when they are ready to take steps towards exiting that life.”
Now, with her 6-year-old son by her side, a job and housing, Sowell holds her head high, not afraid to share her story of trauma and hope. She hopes it will encourage others and let them know there is a way out.
“I thank god for Alternatives For Girls,” Sowell said.
Alternatives For Girls has a resource number that girls and woman can call if they need help in any area. With no judgement, the nonprofit will work to find and provide resources.
The organization can always use funds to keep helping girls and women. Volunteers are needed, as well. Click here if you would like to help, especially during prevention month.