Sex Trafficking in Alabama: Former Victim, Current Rescuer

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Former trafficking victim and WellHouse founder Tajuan McCarty.

Dan Carsen, WBHM

Update: In August 2018, al.com reported Tajuan McCarty, founder of The WellHouse ministry in Birmingham, was arrested in a drug raid at a Tarrant home.

 

As a teenager, Tajuan McCarty ran away from home and sold drugs to survive. Soon, she ended up selling herself. But it wasn’t voluntary. McCarty had become one of tens of millions of sex-trafficking victims around the world. Years later she founded The WellHouse, a shelter and rehabilitation facility for sexually exploited women. In this second part of our three-part series, she talks with WBHM’s Dan Carsen about her difficult journey. Please note: this conversation may not be suitable for younger listeners or readers.

Her Story

“Between 12 and 15 I ran away many times. At 15, I met my first pimp. At 15, you have no skill set, but you still need to eat and survive … I didn’t have to do what the other girls had to do at first. He had me selling drugs. So of course he ‘loved me more.’ It didn’t take long for that to change. My quota I made every night by selling drugs, up until one particular night that he drops me off and gives me the drugs, and there’s not enough drugs for me to make my quota. And I already knew what happened when you didn’t make quota: you were punished. Anything from a beating to a torture, a rape, or a gang rape. Did I physically admit to being paid for sex? Yes. I was 15. I wasn’t even old enough to consent to sex, much less being paid to be raped.”

Years on a Dark Road

“Between 15 and 26, I’ve been sold in every state but Alaska and Hawaii. One of the largest circuits for human trafficking is Atlanta, Birmingham, Nashville, Memphis, and Chattanooga. And you have to understand, it’s a two- or two-and-a-half-hour drive from Atlanta to Birmingham, but it may take us three days, because you’re sold at every single exit.”

Advice to Parents and Anyone Else

“What works is love and grace. And I mean those times when you’re going, ‘Oh my God, I’m at my wits’ end. I cannot help them any more. They don’t want help.’ And then you love them one more time. And you love them one more time. And then you love them one more time. And then some more times. I don’t care what she’s done or has been done to her. She deserves to have love and grace. She is not a prostitute, she is not a whore, she is not a drug user, and it’s our responsibility to love her, because that’s what God does for us.”

From Victim to Founder of The WellHouse

“I started WellHouse with $33 when I was on food stamps. I’d been out of prison for a little over a year, and I met Jesus and he gave me the vision, because I knew it was needed and there was a gap in services for the ladies we serve … And what we’ve done from $33 to 63 acres in six years blows me away.”

The extended web-exclusive interview with Tajuan McCarty is below. You can access our three-part series on sex trafficking in Alabama here.

Sex Trafficking in Alabama: What a Pediatrician Sees
05-12-2017

Each year, an estimated 2 million children are exploited in the global sex trade. As Alabama has become part of an elaborate interstate sex trafficking network, countless underage victims need treatment. That’s where the Children’s Hospital Intervention and Prevention Center in Birmingham comes in.

Sex Trafficking in Alabama: The Crime & the Fight Against It
05-10-2017

By conservative estimates, human trafficking in the U.S. is a growing industry worth tens of billions of dollars a year. Birmingham is not immune. In fact, it’s a regional hub. But efforts to fight it here are growing too.