Annie was a seemingly happy teenager—an athlete and a straight-A student in high school. She even graduated with honors. But while she kept up positive appearances on the outside, she says she felt inadequate and empty on the inside. It was this depression that led her to numb her feelings with drugs and alcohol starting at age 14.
“My success was all for show. I had potential but I felt horrible about myself. Drugs destroyed all of my relationships.
Just a month after graduation, Annie traveled to Las Vegas with her boyfriend and his older brother. She was in a house with strangers when the men beat up several women in front of her and told her they’d do the same to her if she didn’t start making money. That was the first time Annie sold her body for money, just to survive.
“I stayed there for a while and I learned the game. I was too proud to go home, and I was making good money. I wanted to be in control. I felt powerful, like no one could touch me.”
Annie ended up back in Reno and was in and out of jail. She met her husband, who was a drug dealer, and eventually they had three daughters together. By age 21, Annie was employed by a escort agency and was supporting herself financially. But she says she was always running. She fled to California, Seattle, and back to Las Vegas, where she was raped, robbed and beat up by dozens of abusive and controlling men. While she desperately wanted to escape the destructive lifestyle she was living, every time she tried, her depression and her pride pulled her right back into the cycle.
“The last time we escaped, we left in an ambulance by calling 911. My daughters and I had nothing but the shoes on our feet. I wanted help. I stopped using drugs and I wanted to rebuild my relationship with my girls.”
The team at Awaken got Annie set up with the basics at first—things like sheets and bath products. Then they helped her with therapy and support groups to help her heal from past trauma and work on her relationships. They even paid off a small college debt for her, giving her the opportunity to graduate with a bachelor’s degree from UNR. Annie now sells insurance, pays her own rent, and proudly mothers her three resilient daughters who also play sports and get straight A’s. Annie says Awaken helped her finally break her damaging life cycle.
“They didn’t shame me or guilt me or make me feel bad about my life choices. They intervened and were a support system for me. To thank them, I stay on the right path. The best way I can give back is by telling my story.”
Annie says Awaken is an unconditionally loving program that helps give her and the other sex trafficking survivors a place to go and someone to talk to. She says she owes Awaken the value of her life for changing her entire outlook.
“Balanced. I don’t feel like an empty hole anymore. I feel like a million bucks. Inside now too.”
Since Awaken was founded in 2011, it has reached more than 700 women and children in the Northern Nevada community. Awaken’s mission is to increase awareness and education surrounding the issue of commercial sexual exploitation and to provide housing and restoration for its victims.
Thank you to all of the Awaken donors and supporters who have helped us reach this important milestone of ten years!