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Inside the organization helping victims of human trafficking in metro Detroit

Posted at 1:13 PM, Apr 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-18 17:28:59-04

(WXYZ) — Human trafficking goes on every day in both small and large numbers.

Women who are trafficked can be your neighbor or a relative. And it’s more common than you may think.

In our direct area, there are women who have fallen victim to human trafficking. Those hoping to get out sometimes find themselves at the Sanctum House, a safe haven for survivors.

Amy and Alice are two women staying in the sanctuary. They're under the radar in Oakland County and live with staff and volunteers.

They also receive free medical, dental, vision, mental health, and drug treatments.

They hit rock bottom to get here.

Alice was trafficked by a man she first met through Facebook. He groomed her and put her into trouble.

Alice was taken to the now infamous Victory Inn Hotel.

The area was the center of a criminal trial for trafficking women by the dozens with cocaine and heroin.

"I had victim written on my forehead. Please victimize me," Alice said.

Her intent to just party turned into being strung out — high and barely conscious.

In the Victory Inn, a woman became known as the dragon lady. She was an alleged enforcer telling women to get out and make money.

"My man is not paying for you to sit around here," she would tell victims of trafficking.

She's been charged and is awaiting trial.

Amy says she met her in a lockup where she denied the allegations from the feds.

"She was a good person. She didn’t know what was going on," Amy said.

Amy's story is similar to Alice's. She says she spent her life on the streets and in a seedy motel for years. She sold sex for money that went to her pimp.

There was no awareness. No self-esteem. No family help.

"I even had my mother knew everything I did," Amy said.

Amy and Alice are at the Sanctum House because no other help or treatment program gave them what they needed.

The Executive Director of Sanctum House says they built this program from scratch and it remains a work in progress.

Women who live here have to stay for two years to graduate from the program. The staff has been here from the beginning.

"We’ve been open over four years and it took us three to four years to do research," Karen Moore said.

Jennifer is in charge of marketing and fundraising for the non-profit. Shannon is the program director, and does work including scheduling all the doctors’ appointments. Mary Ellen schedules volunteers and does intake and Ericka Watkins is the case manager.

Women who don’t fit in here are put into other programs. So far 90 survivors have gone through this program.

The goal after 2 years is simple—get back to what we call normal.That includes being sober, independent, and productive.