October 2018 – Typically, a prostitute is lured into that life at a very young age. Not Marian Hatcher (photo above).
She was a college graduate who had grown up in the suburbs of Chicago, a successful, hard-working professional earning a six-figure income – not someone you would expect to suddenly be sleeping in dark alleys and prostituting to pay for her crack cocaine addiction.
Hatcher told AFA Journal the backstory behind her façade of a seemingly successful life.
“I was obsessive-compulsive about achieving in school, and eventually the same behavior was transferred to work,” she said. “Poor decision making and distorted thinking patterns made it difficult for me to relate to family and inhibited my capacity to form friendships. On a daily basis I struggled to function with a cloud of depression over my head. I appeared to be self confident on the outside, but in reality my self-esteem was low, and I was full of fear. I developed a pattern of pathological lying in order to manipulate those around me.”
At age 38, she tried crack cocaine. That impulsive decision led to more use, along with disappearances and abandonment of her responsibilities. After six weeks, she was able to pull herself off the streets and return to her life and career priorities.
In the three years that followed, she drank heavily and married a man who became abusive. Hatcher, who had worked hard to repress deep wounds from childhood sexual abuse, could no longer rise above it all. The deadly combination of domestic abuse and external pressures compounded her low self-worth.
“The next time I was around crack cocaine, I was triggered to use,” explained Hatcher. “I was off to the races.”
Days and weeks of disappearances turned into years. She lost everything – her career, her home, and parental rights over her youngest daughter. While on the streets, she was trafficked*, raped, beaten, and nearly murdered.
“Worst of all, I lost myself,” she said. “I was reduced to an animalistic existence. I stopped eating and bathing regularly and would now do anything to get more drugs. Criminal and immoral behavior became the norm.”
A second chance
Hatcher’s new life began when, in lieu of prison time, she was sentenced to Women’s Rehabilitative Alternative Probation Drug Court. The first 120 days were spent in Women’s Justice Services, a jail-based treatment program, and 14 additional months on intensive probation in the community. An overachiever, she graduated drug court in May 2005, eight months early.
“My life was saved when angels with handcuffs came for me in 2004,” she said. “When I was arrested, I thought I would be treated like a criminal. I was not expecting the love and compassion that I received inside Chicago’s Cook County Jail.”
While in that jail cell, she returned to faith in Jesus Christ. And she came to know true freedom as she forgave those who had harmed her.
She received trauma-informed mental health treatment, substance abuse recovery therapy, and practical resources for starting a new life. When she finished the jail-based part of the program in November 2004, she volunteered at the same jail every day for the next eight months. And 14 years later, she’s still there.
When hired as a peer coordinator, Hatcher was able to pay forward the empathy and care she had received from Lisa, a peer coordinator who was also a survivor of prostitution and drug addiction.
“Lisa loved me,” Hatcher explained. “She gave me flat irons for my hair when my hair was matted from living on the streets. She gave me lipstick when I hadn’t worn makeup in years. She gave me clothing even though I was so skinny from drug use that almost nothing would fit me. She helped me take those baby steps to recover from the trauma I had faced. Lisa was someone I could look up to in my recovery and know that it was possible to get through this journey.”
A shift in focus
Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart recognized the need to redirect law enforcement focus from victims of human trafficking to the demand that fuels it. In 2011, he worked with key partners to establish the National Johns Suppression Initiative. As a result, Cook County Sheriff’s Office has become a national leader in combatting trafficking.
When the “buyers” or “johns” creating the demand are apprehended, a new demand is created – an increase in the need for victim care. That’s when the CCSO’s Human Trafficking Response Team, primarily made up of survivors, goes to work to bring help and healing. Hatcher explained their concentration is not on punishment but on rehabilitation by providing tools for victims to get out and stay out.
Her responsibilities have increasingly shifted and expanded. Now, as policy analyst and victim advocate, she works on behalf of Sheriff Dart to play a key role in the war on trafficking.
A national response
Law enforcement agencies across the country partner with Cook County’s NJSI to address the demand driving the catastrophic business model we know as prostitution or trafficking. As a result, well over 600 sex buyers, 62 in Cook County alone, were arrested from January 7, 2017, to February 4, 2018. Another 18 alleged traffickers were detained, and 15 victims were rescued and offered help. Since NJSI’s inception seven years ago, more than 8,200 sex buyers have been arrested by partnering law enforcement agencies.
Technological advances have been employed as well. Seattle Against Slavery has provided a lifelike bot (robot) that intercepts online posts and interacts via text messages with potential sex buyers. The technology helps overcome limitations relating to location and manpower, as the bot can speak to multiple buyers simultaneously.
With the relentless, irrepressible urging of trafficked victims and their families, Congress passed a law amending Section 230 of the U.S. Communications Decency Act of 1996. The section previously provided immunity to Internet platforms that hosted prostitution and sex trafficking ads. The FOSTA/SESTA (Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act of 2017/Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act of 2017) was signed into law April 11, 2018. As a result, Backpage.com, the most prolific culprit facilitating online criminal sex trafficking, was seized by the FBI.
President Donald Trump has made clear the administration’s dedication to bringing prison reform that restores the rule of law, keeps dangerous criminals off the street, and helps inmates get a second chance on life.
“[I]f we want more prisoners to take charge of their own lives, then we should work to give them the tools to stand on their own two feet,” the president said.
His comments echo those of Hatcher, a woman who has been given those very tools.
“This experience has allowed me to utilize my gifts and apply them to what is a sense of purpose for the first time in my life,” she said. “God has infused in me a deep care and responsibility as well.”
* The federal definition of sex trafficking is the use of force, fraud, or coercion to induce someone or keep someone in prostitution. Sex trafficking also applies to any inducement of a person under the age of 18 to perform a commercial sex act.
The National Center on Sexual Exploitation is the leading national organization exposing the links between all forms of sexual exploitation. To receive updates, go to endsexualexploitation.org and click on “Get involved.”