Sex trafficking victims struggle to overcome criminal records

TUCSON, Ariz. - Sex trafficking victims trying to leave that world often find it will not leave them. They almost always have a criminal record that keeps them from building new and better lives.

"My name is Rachel, and I was sex trafficked for about six years."

None of the women you will meet here feel comfortable showing their faces or using their real names.

They are at the Gospel Rescue Mission working to build new lives, but their old lives keep holding them back.

Rachel has a record of drug charges and is fighting to beat her addictions.

She says, “It's hard to explain that to people that I meet or if I'm trying to look for a job and there's also a gap or six or seven years of no work history that I can't really explain."

“My name's Tiffany, and I've been involved with sex trafficking a number of times in my life.”

KGUN9 reporter Craig Smith asked: “Over about how many years would you say?” 

Tiffany: “Maybe from the age of 13 to 15 and in my early 20's."

The criminal record most trafficking victims acquire can ruin their chance for an honest job.

"Tiffany" says, “I have about seven felony convictions on my record, and I've been to prison multiple times, and I have only worked maybe three years out of my whole life."

"Tiffany continues: “I try not to share it too much but I have a really big fear of judgment, and I usually run from situations.  This is the first time I've actually been able to try to follow through with doing something different with my life."

Sometimes in jail, the women learn about Gospel Rescue Mission.  It offers a safe, structured environment to help them build a future far better than their past.

Victor Hightower with the mission says, “The classes we offer like the healthy relationship boundaries class can help them succeed--help them reach sort an inner peace to help them succeed.  We also offer helping people get a GED, teaching them job search skills, learning how to write a resume, learning how to interview to build their confidence up so they can get back in the world."

And in a job market where so many people apply by a computer, a criminal record carries even more weight.

Tiffany says, “On black and white I look horrible but if you were to meet me in person, I'm a good person, and so it's just that struggle of getting past people looking at an application on line or something and looking up your name and what it could show anywhere, but if they were to meet me  it would be a totally different thing."

Both Tiffany and Rachel say they want to find work helping others make the escape they're working to accomplish right now.

Rachel says, “Now that I've survived it and have made a way out of it I just want to help other people going through it and show them there is hope for a different life."


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