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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Out of the shadows

What is it like for survivors of human trafficking?

Lucia (name changed to protect confidentiality) burrowed deeper into her donated coat. In her native country of Somalia, this time of day would be warm, with the sun's last rays slanting softly against the sidewalk. Now, trudging the last few blocks to her one-room apartment in Massachusetts, she felt something besides the cold: the ache of old wounds.

Her ear still hurts where her husband struck her, shattering her eardrum. Even more, her heart aches for the 3-year-old son she left behind with relatives in her flight to the U.S. and a better life.

Lucia, a survivor of human trafficking,
Lucia, a survivor of human trafficking, found hope through the Lutheran Social Services Human Trafficking Legal Assistance Center in Massachusetts.

At first, what Lucia found was worse. She worked as a housekeeper and nanny for more than a year in Worcester, Mass. Her employers didn't allow her to leave the house, threatening her with deportation. They abused her physically, emotionally, sexually. She was denied medical treatment.

Lucia thought about suicide. Then the man who had arranged her passage disappeared. She heard reports that he was picked up by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement on suspicion of human trafficking.

Those authorities referred Lucia to Lutheran Social Services of New England. It's the only program within Lutheran Services in America, a national network of social service organizations, that offers legal and social services for noncitizen survivors of human trafficking.

Although Lucia felt the ache of loneliness that cold winter evening, she was beginning to feel hope too.


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