Jessica begins to move past trauma, focuses on baby

Jessica, barely a teenager herself, is already embarking on quite the mission—being a mother. She is recovering from the trauma of being a part of a sex-trafficking ring, but safe at the Mission’s family shelter, Home Again, Jessica is counting her blessings with her new baby as her focus.

Jessica was raised by a single mother of five kids in Los Angeles. While she’s the middle child, she often took care of her siblings while her mom worked two jobs. The family would sometimes stay in shelters growing up, spending time at Hope Gardens and the Union Rescue Mission downtown. The family even stayed on Skid Row at one point.

Jessica was introduced to drugs by family members and neighbors in the area in which she used to live. She started running away to drink and get high. While staying with relatives, one family member struggling with alcoholism nearly molested Jessica, which she says contributed to some anger issues she deals with.

In Jessica’s short life—she has only completed the sixth grade—she has already become an alcoholic and avid user of meth, cocaine and heroin. “I would leave at night when my mom was asleep,” she said. “I was raped and hit. I’ve had to dodge bullets from people shooting at me.”

At 11, Jessica was sexually assaulted. She later became a victim of a sex trafficking ring. She was tortured and forced to have sex with older men. “They would do their best to place fear in me,” Jessica said. “They’d follow me around or park outside my house and shoot warning shots. I got sick of the abuse and tried to kill myself.”

Jessica has been in a mental facility three times. “I’m trying to overcome what they did to me mentally,” she said. The family has been at the Mission since July. Jessica gave birth to her daughter in October. She is working with the ZOE Anti-Human Trafficking Organization. They are safe at the family shelter, constantly surveilled by police.

Jessica, who should be in the seventh grade, said she’s enjoying being a new mom, but admits that it “gets really hard sometimes. I do love it though because my baby holds me accountable,” she said. “She makes me make the right choices.” Jessica has been sober since May 2021.

Her caseworker, Yadira, said she’s so proud of how much she’s grown. “One of the major differences that we have noticed in Jessica has been her aspirations,” Yadira said. “When she first arrived at the shelter I asked her what she wanted to be when she got older and she said, ‘I want to be a stripper.’

"As a human trafficking victim at such a young age, she was led to believe that stripping was a profession to aspire to. “Now, I am happy to report that when she is asked what she wants to do with her life, she says she wants to finish school and enter the military. I am proud of her progress. She still has a long road ahead of her but I see a glimpse of hope for her future.”