Survivor shares story about being trafficked as a child

By: Kevin Hurd Email
By: Kevin Hurd Email

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- It is a summer-time tradition across the country, running races to benefit a cause.

But Wednesday's Just Us for Justice Run, raising money for International Justice Mission, which rescues people from human trafficking, is an extra special moment for Cheryl Voyles.

"One of the things I try to bring awareness to is it is a journey of healing," said Cheryl Voyles.

Voyles has talked to both groups and individuals about human trafficking. And what she has to say comes directly from experience. She tells us she was sold into human trafficking at just four-years-old and was part of it until she was about 12-years-old.

"I thought I was an object, I used to think of it as throw-away, just like a Styrofoam cup, they'd use us and throw us away," she said.

Her childhood story is so different, something most of us could never even imagine.

"We would be taken to a motel and there would be a motel room set up, and one man after another would come in, sometimes they would pay to have a child come for the night, and you might have to deal with several men," she said.

She says the harshest reality is it happens every day in this world, this country and this state. But in Wisconsin, it is hard to put a number on how often.

"We're about 10 years behind Minnesota and Illinois where they have laws in place, they're counting and we're not counting as of yet," said Jenny Almquist who is the founder of Fierce Freedom.

Recovering from something like this Voyles says requires a complete mental reset.

"You need support in realizing you are of value because you are treated as an object, and so you don't think you have a right to be treated nice," she said.

But she says it is nights like this, surrounded by people who care, when survivors can begin to heal. She says survivors should know their worthy, there's support and help, no longer needing to run from the past.

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