“Shelley’s” Story

Posted on by Gracehaven

“Shelley” grew up in a small, rural town in Ohio. Over a five-year period she was trafficked by a pimp -- and members of her own family -- for drug money. She endured indescribable trauma of being used and abused by man after man. Her body is marked with multiple tattoos -- brands claiming her as someone else’s property.

When she came to Gracehaven she was quiet and kept to herself. Her poor self-image exacerbated by years of coercion deprived her of the ability to advocate for herself and say no. She’d only earned about four high school credits, a result of sporadic attendance and extreme mental and physical duress.

Over time she made friends with the other girls and enjoyed activities like basketball, tumbling, swimming, hip hop, yoga and guitar lessons. She did well in school, earning enough credits to improve by two grade levels.

She also worked hard on her therapy, exploring her deep-seated betrayals and processing how she can move forward and pursue healthy relationships.

As Shelley’s time at Gracehaven was nearing an end she emphatically said she did not feel safe in her small town and wanted to stay close to Gracehaven where she had developed a stable and committed support system. We passionately advocated for her to stay close. Thankfully, Shelley was placed in foster care so our case managers can continue helping her in her journey.

Shelley is now living a more normal life and working on finishing high school. Her goal is to work in law enforcement where she can help teens who’ve been victimized like she was.

And thanks to Survivor’s Ink, she was able to have her tattoos covered up with beautiful images, helping her leave the abuse behind and to reflect on the person she has become.

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