Ten Years of Transformation
May of 2021 marks ten years since Awaken began transforming lives in our community, working to eradicate commercial sexual exploitation and trafficking. Since the organizational launch in May of 2011, Awaken has reached more than 700 women and children in the Northern Nevada community, helping them regain their freedom and their dignity. To celebrate, during the month of May, Awaken will be sharing the unique stories from ten courageous survivors.
Awaken has also lifted the veil on commercial sex trade in our state, a rampant but well-hidden problem in our region. Adjusted for population, Nevada’s commercial sex market is by far the largest of any state, with over 5,000 individuals sold for sex on average each month. The problem still exists—but Awaken has brought it into the public eye. On this ten-year anniversary, Awaken is celebrating not only the successes, such as legislative changes, increased police enforcement and a safer community for women and children—but also the personal and unique stories of the survivors who have transformed their lives.
“We feel both the wins and the losses, the hardship and the death. But we also feel that an impact has been made. The women we work with have changed. They feel they belong. And we’ve seen the entire city create change and become safer.” – Melissa Holland, Awaken Co-Founder
Ten Stories of Survival
Every woman who enters the doors at Awaken does so in a different place in her life. Each of them has a unique history and experience that leads them to create a new choice for a different path. These stories do not all have happy or picturesque endings. Some of these women are still struggling, healing and building themselves back up. But on this ten-year anniversary, Awaken invites you to honor and celebrate all of our survivors. As you read these ten stories of survival, we ask you to recognize their strength and celebrate each of them for how far they’ve come to be authentically and fully themselves.
Katerina is proud of herself for the first time ever in her 27 years of life. She recently went back to school and earned her GED and she’s taking college classes in order to become an HVAC technician. It’s also the first time in as long as she can remember that she doesn’t owe anyone anything—not money, not sex and not drugs. In November of 2020, Katerina became the very first graduate of Awaken’s restorative housing program designed to help sex trafficking victims recover and reclaim their lives.
“I am most proud of the fact that I was able to go back to school. I got teased a lot as a child for being overweight and for not having clean clothes. Walking back into a school was a big deal for me.”