FSCJ shares survivor’s story during Human Trafficking Awareness Day

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Local police, organizations, and non-profits spoke at Florida State College at Jacksonville’s downtown campus to help raise awareness about human trafficking in northeast Florida.

Lisa Sheehan is an FSCJ student and a survivor mentor with the Open Doors Outreach Network at the Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center.

In front of a room full of people, she shared her emotional story for the first time. However, she admits it wasn’t easy.

“For other people who have gone through similar circumstances, to know that they’re not alone and that there can be a light at the end of the tunnel,” Sheehan said.

Sheehan spent her life in and out of the foster care system while growing up in Boston.

She was sexually abused by a family member at the age of 4.

When she was 12 years old, she was raped by her foster brother and told by her foster mother to sleep with men for drugs.

Human trafficking is the fastest-growing and second-largest criminal industry in the world.

On Tuesday, FSCJ’s downtown campus hosted a panel to help our community understand what human trafficking is and how to combat it.

Local non-profit groups like Rethreaded are stepping up to help by giving women who have been trafficked a second chance through employment.

“When they’re employed, we provide wrap-around services, care management, access to counseling, everything a woman would need to start a new life,” said Kristin Keen, Founder and CEO of Rethreaded.

Sheehan said her second chance came when she met a small number of social workers .

In fact, she credits them with saving her life.

“They showed up. They didn’t punish me or isolate me,” Sheehan said.

Now her goal is to finish her undergraduate studies at FSCJ and move on to a master’s in clinical social work so she can one day help women who experienced the same traumas she did.

“Don’t give up. You just have to show up every day. You can’t give up,” Sheehan said.

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