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Sep23WedHuman-trafficking survivor Victoria Morrison is putting her life back together. September 23, 2020 by Shannon Wise
Looking at Victoria Morrison now, you would never know she fell victim to human trafficking. She is as strong and confident as they come—living proof that you can take your life back and transform despite your circumstances. Victoria is articulate, poised and resilient. It’s because of her powerful traits that Victoria has been able to help other victims. But there was a time when she was a victim herself
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With just the clothes on her back, stained with her own blood, Victoria didn’t look back.
A victim of human trafficking who had been forced into prostitution, she had endured one brutal beating too many. Now, her survival instincts kicked in. She phoned a sex buyer to ask if he could drop her off a pack of cigarettes.
When Victoria walked out to the curb to meet him, she opened the front door of the vehicle and realized this was her chance to escape.
“Take me to a police station,” she pleaded as they sped off.
The Will to Survive
Victoria had a happy childhood and was a straight-A student. Fast forward to her mid 20s, Victoria was working at a strip club and deep in the midst of her addiction.
How could that happen?
“I was in first-year university and I was enjoying it,” she says, “but I became friends with someone who worked as a dancer at a strip club. I thought I could pay my way through school and work nights at the same time. But eventually I was drinking at night and too tired to go to school in the daytime, so my grades slipped.”
Victoria thought she could take a year off school and save up some money, but she soon got caught up in the lifestyle that comes with that environment.
“Mostly cocaine, sometimes pain pills, drinking,” says Victoria.
She then started dating a man she met through mutual friends.
“He was really nice at first—they all are.”
It was a perfect match. She was addicted to drugs and he was dealing drugs. In the spring of 2018, he forced her to move to Winnipeg, threatening her family and friends if she didn’t. A man she thought was her boyfriend became her trafficker—and Victoria sank deeper into addiction.
“I couldn’t do what he made me do sober,” she explains. “Being high was a way to deal with it.”
Victoria endured unthinkable violence at the hands of her trafficker, violence almost too disturbing to print; she was electrocuted, choked, struck with a metal pole and suffered a broken nose. Victoria’s spirit was completely broken. Oftentimes, she thought, I’m going to die here.
“I kept thinking, If there is a God, I swear I will use my life to do good.”
Three and a half months after she was forced into prostitution, she saw a chance to escape—and had the extraordinary courage to do so.
“I left everything—no money, no ID. I didn’t care. I was free.”
From One Survivor to Another
Victoria spent five days in the hospital where she discovered her kidneys were failing because of the beatings she’d endured. That was where she met Alice (not her real name), a correctional and justice services worker with The Salvation Army in Winnipeg.
“I received a call from the local police and was told there was a young woman who had escaped her trafficker with only the clothes on her back.”
Alice packed a gym bag with some clothes, hygiene products and thoughtfully selected items “so she wasn’t going home so broken.”
When Alice arrived at the hospital, Victoria was in a wheelchair and could barely move to take a shower. Alice told Victoria she was employed by The Salvation Army and talked to her about her past and her own struggle with addiction.
“I’ve been where you are,” Alice told her. “I’ve been exploited, and I know what it’s like to be controlled by a substance.”
A Piece of Her Heart
The extent of Victoria’s injuries was so severe that she couldn’t even lift her arm to wash her own hair. After sharing stories with one another, a bond was formed. It was then that Alice performed an act as touching as it was simple.
“She brushed my matted hair,” Victoria says.
“I put conditioner in her hair and worked out each knot, showing her I cared,” Alice says.
Victoria was surprised and appreciative when Alice offered to comb it out. “I will never forget that as long as I live.”
The Salvation Army arranged for Victoria’s flight back home, where she was reunited with her mother and sister. Victoria boarded the flight with the only tangible item to her name—the gym bag Alice gave her when they first met.
“When she got on the airplane and went home, a little piece of my heart went with her—or maybe a piece of her stayed in my heart,” says Alice.
Sharing Her Story
Like the hairbrush used to untangle her matted hair just a few months earlier, Victoria began putting her life back together, one strand at a time.
In October 2018, Victoria graduated with honours from a charitable organization that provides programs and services to women who are battling substance misuse.
Now sober and thriving, the 27-year-old is working for a property management company and has her own apartment.
“I’ve never had my own place until now.”
Victoria speaks regularly about her past, her struggle with addiction and the trauma she suffered. Her motivation? To educate people.
In fact, she spoke at The Salvation Army’s annual Hope in the City breakfast in Winnipeg last fall. The Salvation Army invited her to be their keynote speaker and share her story in front of 400 people.
Victoria now assists other human-trafficking survivors, facilitating meetings and creating a solid community of support. Her goal is to begin a social work degree at a Canadian university this month.
“You can rebuild your life,” Victoria says. “There are a lot of supports—you don’t have to do it alone.”