In March of 2011, a newspaper article changed my life. The story was the catalyst for the beginning of ICT S.O.S. The story was coverage of the trial of a pimp and john in the case of a 13 year old girl right here in our city. I didn't know it then but eventually the story would come full circle in the most amazing way.
Last night I got a phone call from one of the EMCU officers involved in the case. When I answered, he said, "I have some news that I think you're going to be pretty excited about." He went on to explain that the verdict had just come in for this young lady's trafficker. 3 counts of rape under Jessica's Law, 3 counts of human trafficking- guilty on all 6. Justice!
For the past year and a half or so, I have thought about this young woman. I never knew her name, didn't know what had happened to her. But I thought of her often and she continued to be a symbol to me of all the girls like her that we were working to create a better story for. Through prevention, support to local agencies, awareness and education we hope to create a city where this isn't allowed to happen to our young women.
Today I got another call. "Do you want to meet her?"
The officer had told her a little about ICT S.O.S. and this movement that had started because of her story. He asked if she'd like to meet me. She said yes.
We made arrangements to meet and I barely made it in the front door before the tears came. I got to share with her what has happened over the last year and a half. I showed her a picture of the 900+ people who ran in the Race for Freedom in September. We talked about the Rock the Market concert, the conference, the O.Z. drop-in center...all of the people in this city who have come together to fight this in hopes that it won't happen to other girls like her.
"All because of MY story?"
Yes, brave girl.
She is a vibrant, beautiful, bubbly teenager. Because of the work done by the officers, the DA's office, the social workers, judge and others involved in her case- she has a chance to be just that. A teenager. A girl with a future. A chance to be whatever she chooses.
And for me, all of the many hours of work on events, donation drives, the t-shirts and blog posts and Facebook updates...it all came down to a hug. I got to hug the girl who broke my heart before I ever knew her name. She has a face, she has a name, she has a future. And that makes my heart happy.