In Her Own Words: Nicole Bell, A survivor’s story (Worcester Sun)

[Editor’s note: Nicole Bell, 35, of Worcester, is a survivor of sexual exploitation. Last Monday, on National Human Trafficking Awareness Day, she shared her story at a City Hall event sponsored by the Worcester’s City Manager’s Advisory Committee on the Status of Women. The Sun was struck by her honesty and candor. Her story is poignant and deserves to be shared. Bell now works to help others as an aide at the Everyday Miracles Peer Recovery Center.]

Today was the first time that I have spoken publicly about my experiences on the streets, and more importantly my recovery from all of it and the support I received from not just other survivors but the community as well.

It was nerve-wracking and empowering and amazing and scary, and the list goes on. I never thought I could recover, yet here I am. Thought I would share what I said so my family could hear it.

I was a victim of sexual exploitation as a teen and most of my adult life. I spent the majority of my adulthood between street corners and jail cells. Before the exploitation I had hopes and dreams like every other young girl … and those weren’t them.

Before learning that I was a victim and that I did not choose this life for myself, most nights were filled with self hatred and blame. Thought all the dreams that I had as a young girl would be just that … dreams.

Before my last incarceration I was ordered to attend a court-mandated program for women like myself. Two survivors came in and spoke, one a now well-respected community leader. She spoke with a fire in her eyes. She spoke of her family, her work, and how the wreckage from the streets no longer ruled her life.

I will not say “recovered” because I don’t believe it’s possible to recover all that the streets have taken from us, but she had something that I wanted. For the first time in what felt like forever I had a moment of hope.

But it became just that as I returned to the streets and very shortly thereafter jail again.

This time when I finished my sentence there was a lot of work going on around the city to address the issue of sexual exploitation. I went to the woman who had previously given me that glimpse of hope and she gave me a little more.

She introduced me to another survivor, Melissa. They kept me close and promised me that if I didn’t use and began to heal, my life would get better, and slowly but surely it did.

I was invited to a quarterly WAASE [Worcester Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation] meeting and for the first time in what seemed like forever my voice was valued.

Continue Reading the rest here In Her Own Words: Nicole Bell, A survivor’s story –Worcester Sun, 01/17/2016