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Human trafficking survivor shares her story of resilience

Published: Jan. 28, 2022 at 6:52 PM EST
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - January is National Human Trafficking Prevention Month, and

19 Investigates got a rare chance to hear from a local survivor.

“It lasted so long, I wanted this nightmare to stop,” she said.

Writing brings comfort to Tracie Chandler.

“I didn’t think I would even be here at 55 today, sharing my story today,” she said.

It took her a while to find the words. But now, they flow freely.

“Today, I feel like I’m really, really set free,” Chandler said.

She has a warning for you.

Human trafficking can happen to you or your loved ones.

For Tracie, it started when she was just 15 years old, living on the east side of Cleveland.

“He was 21, walking home from school; you’re innocent, a typical teenager,” Chandler said.

She didn’t want anything to do with this man at first.

But she knew his sister, and he was persistent.

“I didn’t know how to escape it,” she said.

Their relationship turned into a nightmare.

“It lasted up to my 20s. At parties, introducing me to cocaine,” Chandler said.

He controlled her with serious threats.

“He said he was going to kill me, kill my mom,” she said.

Tracie said one night, cocaine led to a health emergency.

And that was the last straw.

“And he said, you gotta sleep with them, and I said, no, I cannot sleep with them, my chest is hurting,” she said.

After he threatened to kill her again, she took a huge risk and called 911.

Tracie said she went to the hospital in cardiac arrest.

“And that was my escape from him when I almost died,” she said.

Her trafficker went to prison, and Tracie spent years rebuilding her life.

“I still had my days of being afraid; I still had my days of looking over my shoulder,” she said.

Eventually, she let go of her anger.

“I forgave him, and I told him I forgave him, and I moved on. But it scarred, you know scarred my life,” she said.

Tracie decided to tell her story to help other survivors, turning tragedy into strength.

She now does public speaking, is launching a non-profit organization, and has even written a book called “Through the Lord, We Can Pull Through.”

“Everyone tried to knock me down, from the ex to family, whoever. I just feel good, and I’m filled with gratitude to just see how my life turned out today,” Chandler said.

The latest report from the Ohio Attorney General’s Office shows there were nearly 150 human trafficking victims in 2020.

Most were women.

A new state law will require sex buyers to attend “john school,” educating offenders about what trafficking is like for victims.

The Cleveland Rape Crisis Center has a new human trafficking drop-in center, offering services like counseling and a safe space for survivors.

They also have a 24-hour hotline, 855-431-7827.

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