She was introduced her first pimp when she was 21 years old. Living in Austin, Texas, estranged from her family, Tasha was vulnerable and alone. She recalls, “I didn’t know he was a pimp. I just thought he was a regular dude who was trying to help me get on my feet.” That’s how it began.
For the next six years, Tasha found herself a victim of sex trafficking. She tried three times to leave the life but didn’t have the support to stay out. It wasn’t until she was badly burned with a flat iron by her pimp that she finally broke free. “My arm was a wake up. Bad stuff happens in that life. It could have been worse.”
In January 2018, Tasha called Rescue Houston’s 24/7 hotline and began her journey to freedom. She was provided with case management and other support services, and moved into Houston Area Women’s Center (HAWC) where she began to acclimate to living in safety and discover the inner strength she’d lost while being trafficked. It was this strength that empowered her decision to take the stand to testify against her pimp.
Joined by her Rescue Houston advocate, Tasha flew to California to face her trafficker in court. “It was scary to testify. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. It was scary seeing him face-to-face after months since it (being burned) happened. He thought he would get away with it.” Tasha’s bravery and determination to share the details of her story inspired several other women to come forward as well. Justice was on their side — the man who tormented and sold them was sentenced to life in prison.
When asked how it felt to put her trafficker behind bars, Tasha paused and then said, “It didn’t kick in till now. It feels like that chapter closed. I’ve opened a brand-new chapter in my life. I would never wish it (testifying) on anyone. But it made me stronger. I showed him that I made it after all I’ve been through. He’s not going to hurt anyone else.”
Upon returning to Houston, Tasha chose to enter the newly launched Rescue Houston emergency assessment program where she began receiving licensed professional counseling and spiritual exchange in addition to continued mentor outings and case management provided by her advocate. With encouragement from her mentor, Tasha applied and was accepted into A 2nd Cup’s new Brazen Table program, where she quickly picked up cooking skills, continued her personal growth, and discovered a love for baking. On October 13th, representatives from Rescue Houston, HAWC, and Brazen Table all gathered to celebrate her monumental graduation from the culinary training program.
Through the collaborative care provided by these three organizations over the past year, Tasha is rebuilding her life and ready to share her story with those who are stuck in exploitation. “I want to tell my story. To give back. [I want women to know] it doesn’t matter where you come from and everything you go through. You deserve so much better. Don’t allow others to put you down. Your pimp doesn’t really love you. There are other people who will appreciate you.”
If one theme dominates conversation with Tasha, it’s strength. She has broken free from her pimp and “the life”, and wants others to realize they can, too. “I didn’t ever think I’d have my own apartment and two jobs. I love my job. I did everything the legit way. It took me a long time, but I’m here.”