It’s a beautiful day in May, but I’m sitting at my desk and my phone keeps ringing. It’s Lucy* calling from jail. I have known Lucy for over a dozen years. For much of her life, Lucy was victimized by pimps and buyers; but, somehow, Lucy survived. Now, Lucy is too old for “the life”. She’s toothless, mentally ill, drug addicted, and homeless. Lucy cycles in and out of jail. When she’s in jail, Lucy calls me. Incessantly. I’m her only link to freedom.
Lucy has no family. Her children were lost to the system, and her siblings long disowned her. I’m the only “family” she has. Lucy calls me on the phone; and, I try to answer patiently. Like so many victims and survivors of Commercial Sexual Exploitation, Lucy suffers from sexual trauma. It’s her trauma that causes Lucy to run from drug and alcohol programs. It’s never easy to talk about stuff that you have buried deep inside since childhood. It’s impossible to talk about it in a group of people who have never been in that situation. So, Lucy runs. And Lucy is jailed. Again. And again.
I just watched an online training program for lawyers, that was run by a lawyer. He talked about his trauma, and how it led him to drink and drug to self-medicate. He said that he became a thief and stole from his clients. He went to jail and lost his license to practice law. Eventually, he got the trauma therapy that he needed. It was a long hard pull, but he sobered up and eventually got his law license back. He encouraged all the lawyers watching him to get trauma help if they needed it. As I was watching, my phone rang.
It was Lucy. Again. This time Lucy was crying. You see, a little while back, I was able to get the court to order the sheriff to transport Lucy from the jail to Dawn’s Place. Lucy called me when she got to Dawn’s Place. She was so happy to be there, and she was enchanted to see the beautiful home and cozy room that was to be hers. Lucy had no clothes with her, so our caring staff went out immediately to buy her a nightgown and other necessities. But that night, Lucy called me again. The drug craving was getting strong. We talked and prayed together, and Lucy stayed that night. But the next morning, Lucy left to get high. So, the cycle of drug use, homelessness, and incarceration continues, and Lucy is back in jail. Lucy blames herself and that’s why she cries. But I don’t blame Lucy. I have seen what trauma can do to people, even people who had a lot more than Lucy has ever had in her life.
I won’t give up on Lucy. I’m her lawyer, but that’s not it. I’m stubborn, but that’s not it. I won’t give up on Lucy, because I have seen women in Lucy’s seemingly hopeless situation who have, slowly and painstakingly, gone on to succeed. They now live sober and productive lives. They have safe housing and are reunited with their loved ones. And it all began with sexual trauma recovery – the same trauma therapy offered at Dawn’s Place.
Thanks to Dawn’s Place dedicated staff and generous volunteers and donors, women just like Lucy have succeeded against overwhelming odds. So, I won’t give up on Lucy and I won’t let Lucy give up on herself.
*not her real name