An eighth anniversary isn’t a traditional milestone to mark. But every day away from the life of human trafficking, especially sex trafficking, is worth celebrating.
That’s the milestone Catherine Ochoa is ready to mark May 10. These days, Ochoa said her life is filled with all kinds of blessings. She’s now in her third year helping other women ready to escape a life of prostitution with Catholic Charities Community Services’ residential program. Ochoa has also reunited with her children, including a daughter who entered, and ultimately aged out of, the foster care system as a result of her mother’s lifestyle. Ochoa has bonded with her four grandchildren, too, and sees some several times a week. She earned a certification in drug and alcohol counseling in January and is working on an associate’s degree. Her sights are set even higher: a bachelor’s degree in business management and organizational leadership.
But Ochoa’s outlook wasn’t always so bright. She worked the streets of north Phoenix for 15 years as a prostitute, spending time in and out of jail as a result. In jail after her final arrest Ochoa completed Catholic Charities’ prostitution diversion program called DIGNITY — Developing Individual Growth and New Independence Through Yourself. Some 83 percent of graduates do not re-offend. The City of Phoenix Prosecutor’s Office dismisses charges for DIGNITY graduates. At the DIGNITY house success rates for residents who leave the life for good hover at 90 percent.
Catholic Charities is always ready to help a victim of human sex trafficking. They hit the streets weekly with water, food, clothing and information for crisis lines and other avenues of support. “I remember all the patience and the kindness and the love that the staff showed me when I was contemplating getting into the program,” Ochoa said. “They continued to shower me with love when I didn’t think I was lovable. I didn’t love anybody, let alone myself. I thought I was throwaway.” Catholic Charities guided her through the healing process so she could start life anew.
Learn more at The Catholic Sun article: A life reclaimed: DIGNITY program transforms women who see selves as ‘throwaway’.