When Melanie pulls in to work at Sudbury and Area Victim Services (SAVS), it’s hard to imagine where she was just five years ago. The 31-year-old mother of two is an Advocate and Lived Experience Advisor for SAVS, a job that she never saw herself worthy of.
After traumatic experiences in her childhood, Melanie started dating an older man when she was just 14 years old. It was not until recently that she realized that experience played a part in her being trafficked. She was being groomed at the young age of 14 to perform sexual acts in order to get drugs for her “boyfriend”- a tactic commonly used by traffickers to ease their victims into the ‘game’.
Melanie was first trafficked in her early 20’s, where she was brought all over Ontario, forced to work car calls in parking lots and eventually worked her way up to hotel rooms and Airbnbs. Numerous men, dangerous situations, and no way out.
“What kept me there was a photo of my mom and son at his school bus stop. My trafficker showed me this and warned that it was my life or theirs. I felt that I had no other option,” says Melanie.
When her body was physically unable to continue working for her trafficker, he gave her a near fatal dose of drugs and left her for dead. “He hot shotted me, he tried to kill me.” Melanie explains that she knew it was not her time, and while in the hospital, she reached out to a Greater Sudbury Police Officer and a Victim Services worker who she credits with saving her life. “Without these two, I wouldn’t be here,” claims Melanie.
She applauds these two individuals with assisting her and showing her a new way to look at life. Before landing in the hospital, she says that she didn’t know how to be a mom or live a normal life. She slowly learned the basic life skills needed to move forward and now facilitates groups to teach valuable life skills to youth who are at risk of being trafficked or who have exited trafficking situations.
SAVS Anti-Human Trafficking Coordinator Tiffany Pyoli York says, “It has really come full circle.” Melanie credits her success to the strength that she gained by being supported and having those unwavering champions in her life.
Melanie co-facilitates Human Trafficking Awareness Presentations in Greater Sudbury and explains firsthand how she accessed services like intensive trauma therapy, dental, tattoo cover-up, clothing, and food and addictions treatment through the Victim Quick Response Program, a provincially funded program that provides resources for victims of crime and tragic circumstance, including Human Trafficking.
She gives hope for recovery by sharing her experiences and offering services through SAVS. “If I could help even just one person, that would mean the world to me,” says Melanie, sex trafficking survivor, advocate and lived experience advisor.
Learn more about SAVS and the supportive services they offer online here.