Sarah-Jane Vegas is a former trafficking victim who found her calling in helping people by creating a refuge for women in trafficking situations. Her organization is called Stand4Justice.
Last week in Part 1 of Sarah-Jane’s story, we left off at a point where she had been brought into the sex trafficking world as a teen. An older, seemingly confident and empowered stripper at work took her under her wing, provided a place for her to stay, and instilled a certain amount of trust and confidence, but it was all part of the game.
Eventually this woman changed Sarah-Jane’s name to “Angie,” in order to cause her to become disassociated. It gave her a new persona, and this girl could do all the things her traffickers demanded of her. As she recalls, “Angie” just did as she was told. She had reached a point where she was just so broken that she lacked the power to say “no.”
The woman took her to the South of France and back to Belgium, offering her up to a variety of buyers. Eventually she returned her to her “boyfriend.”
In the trafficking world, a “boyfriend” is a person who acts, in many ways, as a real boyfriend and companion, offering a facade of kindness, safety, and protection. Despite his gentle persona, the reality is that he is also grooming the victim. It’s a manipulation tactic used to protect the “merchandise,” as Sarah Jane explained.
At 19, all she ever wanted was to have a man in her life who was kind and protective, a safe man who wasn’t trying to have sex with her. It was a type of love and affection that satisfied a need inside her. Sadly, this man was strategically placed in her life for the purpose of setting her up for more sexual abuse and rape.
The owners of the strip club she worked for were like parents to her. Again, this was all an act to lull her into a sense of security, to believe that she was surrounded by people who loved and cared for her. The dark, insidious truth was that they were playing her. Every single one of them were working together to manipulate and coerce her for the benefit of the game.
Inevitably, all that good feeling she was getting went away. Her “boyfriend” became violent. In her mind it made no sense. Huddled in the bathroom alone she felt suicidal. But Sarah-Jane was also able to draw on some deep down faith that was still within her. She prayed, asking Jesus to take her life and to use her for His glory.
But the hellish life of trafficking wasn’t over yet. One night she fell off the stage at the strip club and injured her neck. Instead of being hospitalized she was drugged. In a hazy stupor, she recovered enough to be put right back to work…
A week or so later, her female “friend” took her back to France to see her “boyfriend.” That was when everyone’s demeanor changed. Sarah-Jane described it like when “you had someone that you loved, out of nowhere being a monster, almost like you have a demon in front of you.”
Her “friend” was in position to “save her.”
“You have to be strong… Come with me now!”
So back to Belgium they went, but this time she was locked inside a house, sexually abused, drugged.
She had almost given up. But she still had the will to pray.
“Jesus again, like if you’re real, you’re the only one (who) can get me out of there.”
Her initial attempts at escape were futile. If she jumped from a window she could break a leg. She was trapped. Again she asked Jesus to get her out of there. The only way out meant crossing right in front of a room of traffickers. God gave her the courage to take the risk.
Moments later, Sarah-Jane found herself drugged and in her underwear running down the middle of the busy road.
No one stopped.
She kept running until she found a bakery. Someone inside called the police. But Sarah-Jane was afraid of the police. Some of her customers in the club were policemen and judges. She feared that she still might not be safe.
With no passport, this drugged young woman in only her underwear with no knowledge of how to speak German was terrified. All she could do was pray and cry.
She had nothing, but somehow she knew that her mother continued to pray for her. She came to believe that her mother’s prayers were, in her words, like a heavenly “SWAT team.”
The police took her in and asked questions, but she was very confused, high on drugs, and they were not speaking French. Thankfully they found a translator and took her to the hospital. Then as Sarah-Jane explains, the people who came to her aid made a big mistake.
They put her in a room alone.
This scared, vulnerable, horrifically abused girl was left alone. Thoughts of suicide took over. Soon Sarah-Jane had wrapped the cord from the TV set around her own neck. As she tried to choke herself to death, something incredible happened. She didn’t scream, but in her words, “(A) scream came out of my womb. And it was God, the Holy Spirit, that just screamed out of me so they could hear that I was passing out.”
By the grace of God, Sarah-Jane survived. But she awoke wearing “a restriction robe”…