Sarah is one of the youngest survivors of Awaken, having been trafficked in Reno starting at age 15. She’s now 17, living with a foster family, and is on track to graduate with a high school diploma in 2022. Sarah says she still feels hopeless most days, like she’s just trying to survive.
“If Awaken wasn’t here, I don’t know what I would do. Where would I be? Ever since the trafficking, it has stuck with me. It effects how I view myself and how other people treat me. You can’t undo what has been done to you.”
Sarah was born in Ohio, but when she was 12, she moved in with her dad in Reno in order to escape her own loneliness and depression, and also to get away from her mom who was addicted to drugs. When she got here, she said her dad and his girlfriend also had addiction issues that included daily gambling and crime. Eventually, her father went to prison and Sarah ended up in the custody of Child Protective Services.
“I ran away from CPS with my boyfriend, and he told me I had to make money for him. He said it would just be a one-time thing, but then I had to do it every day. I kept thinking it would stop, but it didn’t. He would beat me, but then he would also promise me things.”
Sarah said her boyfriend sold her body by posting advertisements about her on the internet. Even though he often got mad at her if she didn’t make enough money, at first she thought she was in love with him. In December of 2018, he kicked her out of the hotel they were staying in and she was rescued off the street when Awaken drove by and saw her struggling.
“Awaken is the only family I’ve got. I wish I was in the position where I didn’t have to go to counseling and could just be normal again. I want to remember what I was like before.”
Sarah says sex trafficking in Reno may seem like a rare occurrence, but she knows dozens of local teens just like her who have also sold their bodies for money.
“I thought I was the only one. But it’s so common.”
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!