GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The first survivor-led program in the state for those who have been sexually exploited or trafficked has recently opened another door for those looking to open a new chapter in their lives.
“They trust me because I’ve been there, done that,” Leslie King, founder of Sacred Beginnings, said.
King was trafficked at the age of 15 and lived the life of prostitution and addiction for 20 years on the streets of Grand Rapids.
For the last 20 years, she’s been on the same streets — no longer turning tricks, but instead turning lives around.
“Many women was like, ‘If Leslie can do it, I know it can be done. You know, it’s not easy but I know it can be done,'” King said.
For more than 15 years, Sacred Beginnings has offered a way out for trafficked victims. Over the years, King has become known to women on the streets because she meets them where they are — heading out into the shadows and talking with the women one-on-one.
“I love to be out. I love to meet them, to cry with them, to pray with them, smile with them. There’s hope,” King said.
That hope just got stronger with the addition of Sacred Beginnings Home Base, a one-stop shop on Division Avenue where women looking to leave their old lives behind can drop in and begin the journey.
“They look around and see butterflies and women who we’ve lost, and they just sit here and take it all in. And then they just start talking,” King said.
Home Base brings the therapy, social workers and support groups together in a comfortable spot where victims can feel safe.
“Can you just feel it though, the atmosphere, the connection? The openness, the bright lights. It is about hope and restoration,” Katie Papke, survivor and licensed clinical social worker, said.
The board vice president of Sacred Beginnings said that the organization’s goal is to serve any type of trafficking victim 24/7.
“…(This includes) youth, transgender as well as labor and sex trafficking victims,” Papke said.
That’s in the future. For now, the group is working to spread the word that behind the door, in an alley behind the Division Avenue storefront, is a place where new sacred beginnings are born.
“We care. We care not because you keep coming in here; we care because we’re trying to save your life, because there’s more to you than what you’re doing,” King said.
Sacred Beginnings is possible due to financial support from foundations, grants, church donations and gifts. If you’d like to support, click here.