The Joseph Project works to connect human trafficking survivors with pro bono legal services

Survivor shares story

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DETROIT – A woman who was a victim of human trafficking, beginning when she was 12 years old, was beaten, stabbed and left to recover in a hospital, facing high medical bills.

D'lynn's story is hard to imagine. She was a victim of human trafficking for 18 years and attacked so severely by the man who trafficked her that she only survived by getting to a hospital.

She was sued and said the lawsuit was devastating because she had finally broken free from her abuser and wanted to start a new life. With the lawsuit against her, however, she wasn't able to rent an apartment and her credit was ruined.

She had nowhere to turn and that's when The Joseph Project stepped in to help.

"I didn't know anything about credit reports. I didn't even know you had hospital bills. I didn't know that type of stuff so the collection agency reached out to me," D'lynn said.

When she was 12 years old, she ran away from a broken home and met a 70-year-old man who said he would help her. That man introduced her to meth and she became addicted. For 18 years, she endured abuse.

She said, in the last attack, her trafficker punched her, broke her jaw and tried to drown her in a bathtub.

"It was a couple days. I was in bed for a few days. I started catching an infection, so my face is swelling, I'm still bleeding and starting to crust to me and he says 'you're going to die if I don't get you to the hospital,'" she said.

Her abuser dropped her off at the hospital and she stayed there for days. Afterward, because she was so scared and damaged, she was no longer of value to her trafficker, which made it easier for her to escape.

As D'lynn worked to rebuild her life, she hit a huge roadblock.

"She had all these medical debts piled up. So her pimp had assaulted her viciously, and as a result, she was hospitalized for days and when she was treated and she made a full recovery and she, of course, came out, but she had all these debts that had piled up and she had no means of paying them off," Nate Knapper, with The Joseph Project, said.

Knapper started The Joseph Project to connect human trafficking survivors with pro bono legal services. Knapper connected D'lynn with Matthew Paletz, who arranged for help from the Michigan Crime Victims Fund to handle the $4,000 hospital bill.

Amanda Paletz is an attorney who helps human trafficking victims.

"Most of the time, I would imagine they would have a criminal record because of the things they were compelled to do while they were being trafficked," Amanda Paletz said. "So they end up with records -- convictions for drug possession, maybe larceny, petty theft, prostitution, obviously. So, once they are pulled out of that lifestyle, they still have to deal with the damage that has been done to their life and try to move on for employment purposes."

Find out more about The Joseph Project here.

D'lynn has worked to rebuild her life and now she shares her story to college students studying to be social workers so they can learn the signs of human trafficking.

D'lynn is going to school in hopes of becoming a Christian counselor. She said the man who trafficked her is now in prison.

The Joseph Project is being recognized by Jennifer Grieco, the president of the State Bar of Michigan.

“Doing pro bono work is the one thing that only lawyers can do, so bringing the connection of pro bono work with the victims of human trafficking is just something I am very passionate about," Grieco said.

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