Escaping “The Life”

Breaking Free, founded by Vednita Carter, is a nonprofit that helps women escape prostitution. Since 1996, Carter says she has helped more than 6,000 women get the support they need. In the process, she’s built an army of survivors who have joined her crusade to end sex trafficking.

Carter personally knows about this world. At 18, she was hoping to make money for college when she responded to an advertisement for “dancers.” At first, she danced fully clothed, but her bosses and then-boyfriend soon pressured her into stripping and, eventually, prostitution. It was more than a year before Carter called a friend who helped her get back on her feet. Later, she realized how lucky she had been. “The majority of women don’t have anyone to call. There is nowhere for them to turn,” said Carter, now 60. “That’s why I do this work.”

The Breaking Free drop-in center provides food, clothing and emotional support to any woman coming off the street, no strings attached. For many women, the first significant step is to participate in a 14-week class called Sisters of Survival. Graduates are honored in a ceremony, marking the start of their new lives. The group also provides permanent and temporary housing, addiction counseling, job skills training and legal assistance.

Carter believes that sex trafficking won’t end until men stop purchasing sexual favors. She established one of the country’s first “John Schools” that educates men arrested for solicitation about the impact of their actions. According to Carter’s group, only 2% of the men who complete the course reoffend.

Carter is considered by many to be a pioneer in the anti-sex trafficking movement, and she is determined to keep fighting as long as she can. “We are really raising an army here. And this is a battle,” she said. “It’s not OK to buy and sell us. We are not for sale.”

Learn more at Kathleen Toner’s CNN Heroes article: Helping women escape ‘the life’.

Source: Cable News Network, Turner Broadcasting System, Inc.

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