When I was a little girl growing up in Columbus, Ohio, I was put to “work” at a very young age.
My mother sold me, and drove me wherever, whenever she got the call to get her drugs or for sex. Many of her “clients” became my clients without my consent as this started at a very young age. The earliest I can remember is being four years old in smelly motels.
Around my eighth birthday, I was taken to an orgy for the first time. It was in a fancy hotel downtown. I was used for an S&M show, chained up with a dog collar, while men committed violent and unnatural acts on me. Afterwards, left lying there like a broken object, I felt so humiliated. I was ashamed, dirty and knew deep down I deserved more in my life. I trembled in fear, but my body straightened and stilled itself like a bow in suspense before the shot, and I heard my voice as though it were not my own, telling them that this was wrong and that I was going to tell on them, and that they would all go to jail!!! As the loud music continued to play, no one seemed to care, no one. Once the “party” was over my mother and some man took me quietly away to a basement. I was certain that I was going to be killed, but instead I was given a sandwich and a blanket and told I was to remain silent.
During the week, I went to school. I was a shy girl, with few friends. I remember once in the second grade, becoming aware of an energetic shift in the room, to realize all eyes were on me. The teacher had been calling on me, and I had been too spaced-out to hear. She wondered out loud if I knew the answer to the question she had asked, and I sat in embarrassing silence while the class laughed. This sadly happened more often than not.
I was a nonentity at school and at home, no one cared for me. I received more attention online and through Mom’s network of drug dealers and friends. It felt good to be viewed as the perfectly beautiful, sensual object by men. This sadly was the only positive in my life. I clung to it as my only raft to keep from drowning in a sea of shame and self-loathing and guilt that I would later learn was not mine to carry. As a teenager, I wanted to kill myself.
It would take several more years, many more hours of therapy, an ongoing mentor, a newfound relationship with the Lord in order to finally share my story with one safe person. Knowing Darcey and Jay are there for me and will always be since meeting them at Lighthouse as a teenager (I am now 30!) has been a huge blessing. I am excited to see how many lives will be changed because people do care and know trafficking is NEVER a choice a young lady makes on her own.
I share this experience publicly here, having finally reached a place in my healing where I have access once again to the strength that came through me in those moments of clarity.
These women have courageously given permission to share their stories.
If we told you plainly everything they have endured, we would have to put a Mature Adult warning. With permission, we have used less explicit descriptions and left out many details.
We use initials to protect their identities.
It is still difficult reading and may be a trigger if you have experienced abuse yourself.
I was a young adult former foster youth (YAFFY).
While in foster care, I moved countless times. I went from a foster home to reunifying with my parent, back to foster care and numerous shelter stays and foster homes until I finally went into an independent living program, similar to what Strong Tower is doing. It was during that time, I switched high schools three times. During that time, I lost trust in all adults. I rebelled, and I experienced mental health struggles. Ultimately, I felt unwanted, unimportant and thrown away by the system. For me, trust was something I didn’t have very easily. It was something that had been broken in my life before entering foster care and countless times while in foster care.
For many young adults leaving the system, this is something we all understand too well. For many of us chaos is familiar. Abuse is “normal” and expected. Instability is common and unpredictability in life is expected. Independence is a very scary situation.
Many don’t have a trusted adult to go to for advice or if they do it’s someone assigned to them as a caseworker that will not be in their lives forever. Once 18, you are turned to the wolves and the unknown, alone. Many of us come from abusive backgrounds or situations that left us unsafe at some point. College and future success seem daunting to many of us when just being able to afford the bills and keep a roof over your head is absolutely impossible. When a regular young adult with a supportive family runs into financial hardship, while on their own or in college, many turn to their parents. They can expect a place to live, somewhere to celebrate a birthday, a place to go to on holidays as dorms shut down, and groceries when hunger arises, a small loan, or helpful advice.
What happens though when you don’t have that support system? You give up or you don’t know what to do and everything falls apart. Couch surfing (staying on people’s couches for shelter) becomes your option if you lose housing or homeless shelters if you don’t have the friends for couch surfing. Homelessness, addiction, being trafficked are the possible situations for a young woman coming out of foster care.
This was my life and my story for a few years, until one person came into my life and stood alongside me and earned my trust. She walked with me, teaching me things in adult life I’d not ever been taught. She loved me when I was unlovable and even bought me food when I wasn’t responsible with my money.
I am happy to say I now work in the field of social work and help families affected by mental illness. So how did I ever achieve success coming from where I did? I found a support system which is exactly what Jay & Darcey are doing through Kingdom Pillars. Strong Tower will provide a way for young women to have the same chance and opportunity I got. I have a mentor, skills and now a lifelong “family”.
I hope you will support Kingdom Pillars. It will change the lives of young women and leave a legacy for future generations to come.
When we first met Stephanie, she was battered, broken and hopeless. Stephanie is currently finishing her master’s degree. She is working with at-risk youth and has turned her painful past into a very positive part of other’s lives. Stephanie is an inspiration and a success story. We are proud to call her friend. – Jay & Darcey McCampbell
I grew up in and out of the foster care system, was raped the first time at age four by my then foster father's brother. Over a period of 13 years, I was in 11 different homes, all of which I was abused in. My birth mom would work her plan, then sadly be back on drugs and back into a home I went. I met the McCampbells at their mentoring group on Saturday morning, and they have been in my life since. They loved me when I didn't know how to love myself. They have stayed in contact, been present and for that I am grateful. I am so excited about the Strong Tower Project!
Strong Tower helps restore hope and a future for young women who have aged out of foster care and/or been trafficked.
We provide the people who help them create a path forward and will also be a place to call home.
Currently, we come alongside Central Ohio women, ages 18-25. We provide compassion, mentoring, counseling, and essential resources, so they are not alone as they heal and find a victorious path forward.
Will you join us in providing the safe haven they need?