Sexual violence and human trafficking a major problem; services - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

Sexual violence and human trafficking a major problem; services available to survivors of abuse

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"I have been raped brutally more times than I can count. I stopped counting," said Tajuan McCarty, Founder/Executive Director of the Well House, a shelter for women looking to escape prostitution and sex trafficking. 

McCarty offers a disturbing yet honest account of her experience as a survivor of sexual violence and a pawn in America's sex trafficking ring. 

"I ran away between the ages of 12 and 15..many times," she said. "At 15, I actually stayed gone long enough to be approached by a pimp. And shortly after that every state except for Alaska and Hawaii."

McCarty would eventually have a run in with law enforcement and get arrested.  It was her encounter with police that helped her escape a life of pain and sexual exploitation. 

"I obtained two Master degrees and one bachelor degrees.  I had some other issues come up in my life.  Shortly after that, I met Jesus and he gave me the vision for the Well House," said McCarty. 

The Well House is a safe haven for women looking to escape prostitution and sex trafficking in the southeast.  It has helped dozen of women since opening.  You can call McCarty a success story, but like many victims of sexual violence, the residue of a violent,abusive past lingers. 

"We all suffer from PTSD and stockholm syndrome," said McCarty. 

Aryn Gieger, a Sexual Assault Coordinator with the Crisis Center, agrees with McCarty's assessment of the lasting affects of sexual violence. 

"A lot of trust issues and scare to move forward," said Geiger. 

The Crisis Center take on about 30 cases of sexual assault each month. They help people from different parts of the state get counseling and sexual assault services.  They perform sexual assault examinations using a rape kit. Organizations like the Crisis Center and the Well House are important, as thousands of women and men come forward to share their painful stories of sexual violence. 

The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey estimates that more than one million women are raped in a year. 

The best advice from counselors when confronted with someone who tells you they're a survivor of sexual violence? Believe them. 

"We have a culture where we blame victims a lot.  And a lot of that is why were you doing that? Why were you there? If we cut all of those questions out and say I believe you and I'm sorry that happened to you," said Geiger. 


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