From the time she was little, Jessa has always been used and abused. Her family was part of a group of people who sexually abused her on a regular basis, and as a child, she was forced to pose for pornography. As she grew up, posing turned into performing, and Jessa was no longer appearing to do sexual acts in front of a camera, she was being raped on camera.
The spiral continued, and the pornography turned into profitable exploitation. By the age of 10, this beautiful young woman was being sold to pimps.
Jessa grew up in Canada, and lived in a suburban neighborhood where she was sexually exploited on a daily basis. Her neighborhood was “normal” and probably looked similar to where you and I live, but Jessa had no idea. She wasn’t ever sent to school, and never had the opportunity to even see her hometown. The closest thing she had to an education was a sixth-grade mathematics textbook that was thrown at her.
“I was trafficked domestically in Canada, just as I was often taken to the USA and other international countries for the sole purpose of being trafficked.”
When Jessa was 21, a woman approached her after recognizing that she displayed signs of an abused or trafficked person. She gave Jessa a slip of paper with her name and contact information before telling her to call for help anytime. That woman owned a safe house in Colorado where she helped to protect and rehabilitate survivors of human trafficking.
Escaping wasn’t something the 21-year-old had ever considered at the time—she simply never realized she had a choice.
“I didn’t know that there was an opportunity to get away,” Crisp said. “Growing up I thought it was a normal existence because it was normal for me.”
After months of building courage and communicating back and forth with the gal in Colorado, Jessa finally left. The woman helped her get to the airport and got her a plane ticket.
“My escape wasn’t a fairytale like a Disney movie; instead it was encapsulated by fear and months of preparing. I was terrified of the unknown, frightened that I would be hunted down by my pimps and abusers, and scared of what the future would hold. But in addition to being afraid, I also felt freedom for the first time. Freedom was being able to see the big blue sky and seeing the tumbleweed float around on the road as I was driven to a safe house and it felt like sunshine that kissed my face.”
Jessa was free, but her visa posed a threat for the future. Being that she was a Canadian citizen, her tourist visa was only valid for six months, forcing her to return to Canada. She re-located to Vancouver, and got plugged into a safe house there, but only for three weeks.
It was 2010, and the Winter Olympics were about to get underway in Vancouver at the exact same time that the safe house she’d entered was being forced to shut down for lack of financial funding.
Jessa had nowhere to turn, but she knew that the Olympics posed a major threat to her safety. Research shows a spike in human trafficking surrounding major sporting events.
For the second time in her life, Jessa was approached by a woman who suspected she’d been abused.
She explained to Jessa that she houses a number of girls who are in the same situation as her.
“She told me that she wanted to be my mom and that she has a lot of houses of girls like me and that she wanted to take care of me,” said Jessa.
The 21-year-old was beyond grateful to have someone in her new city who was offering to care for her the way she’d been cared for in Colorado. But her vulnerability had failed her. The woman told Jessa that she now had to work for her, and so began the all-too-familiar cycle of being sexually exploited for money. Once again, Jessa found herself trapped in slavery.
“Men raped me as my body tried to disappear from the deep burning pain, but there was nowhere to go. I wished desperately that this were a nightmare, but without knowing the real names of my pimps, I understood the gravity of my situation. I was a slave once again.”
Jessa says that she felt “numb,” and full of nothing but “shameful pain.” She says she turned the anger she felt toward these men into hatred toward herself.
“I hated the fact that the abuse and trafficking I suffered growing up made me so vulnerable to more abuse and pain. I hated the fact that I trusted someone to help me when I was all alone in a new city. I hated the ways that I longed for safety and for someone to care. And most of all, at that moment, I hated the fact that I was still alive and that I had survived my childhood.”
Unbelievably, Jessa escaped slavery a second time.
She was able to return to the same safe house in Colorado, and with the help of a select few people who had earned her trust, and genuinely cared about her future, Jessa is a completely new person today.
The director of the safe house (and the same woman who originally approached Jessa in 2009) knew that they had to do something to keep her from having to go back to Canada.
She told Jessa that if she enrolled in college, she’d be allowed to stay in the states.
“When the director at the safe house suggested that I enroll in college, I laughed in her face. I thought she was crazy. How could I go to college if I have never had an education growing up? How could I succeed if I had never written a paper in my life and didn’t know how to do simple math problems? In response I was simply told, ‘If you can read, you can learn anything.’ I wrote that phrase on my arm with a black Sharpie every day for over a year.”
After getting her GED, Jessa was accepted into college—something she never dreamed could be possible for someone like her. In 2013, she received the Colorado Authors’ League Scholarship, and she managed to finish college with a 4.0 GPA.
“Last May, when I stood in front of my graduating class to deliver the valedictorian speech, the Sharpie story and many other stories flashed through my mind, including my first day of school when I sat on the parking lot and cried because I was convinced people would shun me if they knew about my past and the things I had been forced to do. Miracles not only happen, but after trauma it is possible to dream again and live life fully.”
Jessa graduated with a BA in Christian counseling and is currently working to get her Master’s Degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. She hopes to get a Psy.D. in Clinical Psychology where she’d like to specialize in trauma recovery.
In addition to the academic achievements and incredible strides she’s made in finding freedom, Jessa met the man of her dreams, and the two got married in Colorado last year.
“It’s been a long journey, but through God’s redeeming love, safe people believing in me when I couldn’t believe in myself, and through people choosing to be in my life for the long haul and walking the messy road of healing by my side—I have changed. My past no longer has the power to hold me captive. I am an overcomer, I am a wife, I am a student, I am a professional, I am a speaker, I am an author, I am leader, I am an agent of change, and I am a confident woman who longs to make a difference in society.”
Jessa is currently raising money for her furthered education. Visit her Go Fund Me Page for more information.
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