“Human trafficking is the exploitation of an individual for another personal gain by usually force, fraud and coercion,” she said. “It is dark, it is evil, it is corrupt and it has robbed entire generations.”
Human Trafficking victims and survivors were identified by the U.S. National Human Trafficking Hotline in 2019. Most were trafficked for sex.
Thousands more go unreported.
“I was beaten, I had to be out there,” says Shanya Cole. “I couldn’t come in unless I had a certain amount of money, you know, had to wear certain things I didn’t want to wear. I had to do certain things I didn’t want to do.”
Shanya’s felony record makes it hard to find a job. She spent years along Fresno’s Parkway Drive, a known area for prostitution.
“A person can be told they’re bad for so long, they start believing it,” she said. “When you don’t have positive in your life, only negative’s going to come out when there’s no positive. So you have to have that support.”
Over 1,054 human trafficking victims were identified locally. Nearly a third are minors.
“Social media has been able to sort of hide a trafficker as he pursues and looks for maybe a younger person who maybe struggles with self worth, self-doubt and a trafficker will prey on those vulnerabilities,” Shabaglian said. “If it’s a stranger, we really don’t know who’s on the other side of that text message or that inbox, that DM.
Shanya is joining Made For Them’s new 18-month C.O.R.E. Leadership Academy. It starts with healing then job training.
“So C.O.R.E. is an acronym for ‘Creating Opportunities to Restore and Employ,'” Shabaglian said. “We know that in order for you to get a job, maintain a job, grow within a career, the personal development, the personal traumas and experiences firstly to space to be healed, to be addressed to, to find that space of healing.”
Made for Them will soon have more space thanks to a collaboration with Iglesia Nueva Vision in Fresno. Survivors of human trafficking will take classes on campus, restoring trust and finding new skills.
“The women that are part of the C.O.R.E. Leadership Academy will have just a safe opportunity to fail on us in an environment that helps them see and learn good things about mistakes,” Shabaglian said.
Before the pandemic, Made for Them held fashion shows to raise money and awareness about its work. It still sells products and clothes online.
Proceeds help fund its services.
“In just a simple purchase, you’re partnering with us in this work,” Shabaglian said. “We all have different capacities, everyone, especially in this COVID era, we’re, we’re stretched so thin and so emotionally taxed. But it’s a simple purchase, it can make a huge impact.”
In nine years, Made For Them has served over 800 survivors and victims of human trafficking. Shanya is expecting twins and is ready to embark on a new journey.
“By the grace of God, I’m starting to love myself,” she said. “Thank you, Andrea. I didn’t see myself anywhere further until she came around.”
For more information on Made For Them, visit their website.
The National Human Trafficking Hotline is 1-(888) 373-7888.
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