(COLORADO SPRINGS) — A woman betrayed by a family member, spent her entire childhood being trafficked and sold to men for sex.
At four-years-old Jennisue Jessen was in a world of chaos.
“My dad was an alcoholic, my mom was addicted to my dad,” she said.
She was sent to live with her grandparents where things would only get worse.
“They didn’t know that my grandfather was a pretty wicked bad guy,” Jessen said. “And so, at the age of four, he started selling me to other men for sex.”
Jessen said her grandfather took her all over southern Missouri, northern Arkansas, and parts of Oklahoma.
“They would have their transaction, and that man would take what he paid for, and then my grandfather would take me home again, Jessen said.”
Others had no idea what was happening.
“Outwardly I had a pretty normal life,” Jessen said. “I went to school; I was a straight-A student. I was the teacher’s pet because that was my safe place.”
But outside of school, the exploitation continued for 14 long years.
“Nobody asked. And I think that’s the thing in our community is we see signs or symptoms, especially if you’re a mom, you have this gut mom sense of like something is not ok, and then for whatever reason, we don’t get involved, we don’t ask the hard questions and that is why trafficking and exploitation just thrives and multiplies,” Jessen said.
Jessen said it’s a miracle she’s still alive today.
“It’s God’s grace in my life,” she said.” “If it was up to me, I wouldn’t be here. I wouldn’t have survived.”
Jessen finally escaped at the age of 17, the day after a failed suicide attempt.
“On that day, I found out I was pregnant, and that circumstance awoke in me kind of this momma bear instinct,” Jessen said. “Where I had never been able to effectively fight back on behalf of myself, now I had this innocent baby to protect. So, I finally had the courage to reach out and tell a counselor what was happening, and she was able to intervene in my situation and get us to safety.”
Jessen was finally safe, but her world would never be the same.
“I still sometimes have nightmares, I still sometimes sleep with the lights on,” Jessen said.
Jessen credits her faith, a community of other survivors, and her husband of nearly 30 years with helping her heal.
“I came into our relationship believing every man to be dangerous, untrustworthy; and he proved to me consistently day after day, week after week, 28 years later, that not all men are dangerous. That he could be safe, and he could be strong, and that I was worthy of protection and love,” Jessen said.
Jessen now uses her experience to help others.
“If I kept my experience to myself, just locked in a box, well, what was it all worth? Jessen said. “The blood, sweat and tears, the pain, the trauma, if it stayed just hidden then what was it worth?”
It’s not always easy for Jessen to step back into the darkness she escaped, yet she said it’s always worth it when she sees someone else find the light.
“If that is transformed into impact, that empowers and inspires other people to move toward freedom, then it has a purpose. It was not for naught. It was not for nothing. It mattered.”
If you think someone is being trafficked, you can call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.