Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Wonder Woman Wednesday-The first Phoenix of 2016

When you think of sex trafficking, what do you envision?  For most it’s a kidnapped girl trapped in a dog crate and only let out for paying customers.  Although that does happen, most of the time it’s not like that. 

Let me tell you the story of a girl from Portland, Oregon named Jeri Williams.  A member of the Klamath tribe, she married at 19, she found herself on the other side of the country trying to raise four children with an abusive husband.  At the urging of a friend fro
m Portland, she left that situation.  She and moved back to the West Coast to live with that friend, and that’s where the real nightmare began.

You see, this friend was no friend at all.  She was a former sex worker whose brother was a leader for the local Crips set.  This friend, who was pregnant, was being paid in crack cocaine to recruit women into prostitution. 

Jeri Williams
Jeri tells this horrendous account, “[The gang members would] pick up young girls to recruit downtown in Pioneer Square, bring them back to my apartment and pull trains on them on my couch.” I stopped her for clarification. “Trains. Gang rape them. You know, one after the other. And then they would say, ‘you’re a whore, you need to go out and walk the streets or we’ll tell your mom. Or if you get arrested, you know, it won’t be our fault, it’ll be your fault ‘cause you hung out with us.”

Jeri’s friend who urged her to move away from her husband for safety tricked her.  She ended up on the streets turning tricks while her ‘friend’ babysat her children and allegedly used them as bait to draw in other young women.

Jeri was kept in a locked room by her pimp, who often times let his friends in to rape her.  She was only let out from 8pm to 6am to work.  She had to bring back at least $300 each night, which she estimates to be about 15 dates.  Fifteen different men every single night.  

She finally got her chance to break free when a john tried robbing her and stabbed her in the back and arm.  She fought for her life and her money and when she brought it “home” her pimp sent her back out on the streets the next day to 'get back in the saddle'.  Shortly after, he was arrested for something.  Now she had help from the authorities to get out, but it was not easy. 

On her journey towards healing, she attended Portland Community College to get her degree to become an alcohol and drug counselor, and she also fell back into the pattern of dating abusive men and drug dealers.  During one night, the police kicked down her door and found Uzis and 27 grams of crack cocaine on the table.  Jeri received a felony conviction for the dealings of her boyfriend and her children were placed in foster care.  When she got out of jail, she was homeless for a while before moving into the West Woman’s Shelter for just over a year.   This is where she burned down her former self and emerged as a phoenix.

She stared working as a housekeeper at a Portland Red Lion Inn and was introduced to local unions and community organizing.  She co-founded the Urban Workers Union which unionized parking-lot attendants in 2001.  She became the executive director of the Environmental Justice Action group and helped defeat the expansion of I-5 that runs through low income communities in Portland.  The Governor appointed her to two task forces that worked on transportation and trade issues. 

In 2006, she won the Alston Bannerman Fellowship Award for activists of color and was offered a job with the Diversity Civic Leadership Program that teaches civic engagement to communities of color and immigrant-refugee communities.

Through all of this, her story began to emerge.  She began speaking about it to church groups because she realized, just as all survivors do, healed hearts heal hearts.  She has worked actively to help bring a human face to the problem of sex trafficking, and even has testified before Congress.  She is now a grandmother and activist, and the ripples she makes in the world create change. 

Because of her unfailing bravery to face her struggle, Jeri is the first woman featured on Wonder Woman Wednesday for 2016.  Her story is proof that you aren't the sum of the things you've done or the things that have been done to you.  There is light after the darkness.  

January is National Human Trafficking Awareness month.  Learn how you can help by contacting

Be bold.
The Stun Gun Girl

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