From Victim to Warrior
Sacred Beginnings Founder and Executive Director Leslie King is, herself, a survivor of human trafficking.
Coerced into prostitution at the tender age of 15, Leslie spent over 20 years exploited, addicted, and trapped. In 2000 Leslie miraculously found the strength and the courage to break free (find her story below), and committed her life to rescuing and rehabilitating women just like her.
Leslie received her Associate of Arts degree from Grand Rapids Community College in 2008, and she is completing her Bachelor in Social Work degree at Grand Valley State University.
Today Leslie is an award-winning and sought-after expert, speaker, and trainer. In conjunction with her mission at Sacred Beginnings, she works alongside law enforcement and legislators to affect lasting change.
2014 50 Most Influential Women in West Michigan, Grand Rapids Business Journal
2011 Rising Health Hero, The Grand Rapids Press
2008 YWCA Advocate of the Year
2005 Grand Rapids Woman of the Year - Nominee
As far back as I can remember my life was filled with fear, pain, and trauma.
I vividly remember the many times my alcoholic father viciously beat my mother. I was only a child—I couldn’t do much more than hold my siblings, trying to shield them from the brutality. And I would cry, feeling helpless to do anything.
At school, I faced a different kind of abuse. I encountered intense discrimination because of the color of my skin and the texture of my hair. Kids called me names. They attacked me verbally, physically, emotionally. As a blend of African American, Caucasian, Native American, and Puerto Rican cultures, finding a place to belong was very difficult.
My 30-year-old cousin moved in with us when I was 8 years old. With him in our house, I thought everything would be all right. He played dolls with me. He took me to the store. He listened to me. He made me feel special and loved. Everything I thought I needed at the time, he was to me.
But then, he molested me.
He told me, “If you say anything to anyone your father is going to kill your mom.” I believed him. And I was terrified of him.
The sexual abuse continued for some time until my father found me bleeding in the bathroom. He asked me what happened. Scared, I said nothing. Somehow, my father knew. I heard a gunshot. Looking out the window, I watched my cousin run away from the house. My mother never found out. In fact, I kept the sexual abuse a secret for many years.
As I grew into a teen, I didn’t know how the horrors of my childhood would change my life. I ran away from home and rebelled against any and everyone in my life due to the emotional pain I held inside. I didn’t know how to express my agony in any other way. I needed help. I just could not figure out how to ask for it. I was only a child.
One day I met a man. He told me that I was beautiful. He made me feel special. No one had ever told me that I was pretty before. No one had ever treated me like that before. Soon, he began buying me beautiful clothes, expensive jewelry, taking me out to clubs, and introducing me as his lady. With him, I felt safe and secure.
I had no idea the nightmare that was coming.
We went to one of his friends’ homes one night. We drank and laughed. We were having a good time. In an instant, everything went blank. I woke to find his friend on top of me having his way with me.
I looked to one side. The man who said he loved me sat watching. He looked at me with disgust.
“Bitch, get my money,” he said. He made it clear that I owed him now for all the things he did for me. That day, I learned that nothing is free.
That day, my life as a prostituted child began. I was a terrified 15-year-old child standing on the corner of Logan and Division in Grand Rapids, Michigan, pimped out and sold to the highest bidder. I was called a prostitute, a whore, and so many other hateful names that a child should never be called. No one seemed to see me as a 15-year-old. No one looked at me to see that I was being used, abused, and sold.
My pimp told me I would be killed—and my family would be killed—if I tried to leave. Terrified, I did exactly as I was told. My mother never understood why I did the things that I was doing. She didn’t know that running away from home was my attempt at keeping them safe.
I was trafficked from city to city, state to state. I was beaten if I did not bring in a certain amount of money. The brutal beatings included wire hangers and power cords.
After 20 years of this lifestyle, I became accustomed to living in fear, pain, and darkness of the unknown. In order to stop feeling and thinking, I turned to drugs and alcohol.
I heard people talk about God all the time. In my mind, though, I thought that if there was a God, why did He allow all these horrible things to happen to me? It made no sense to me. All I wanted was to give up.
On July 4, 2000, I tried to commit suicide. I was sick and tired being afraid and alone. I felt my heartbeat slowing down and knew it would soon be over. I screamed out to God, “If there’s a God, you better help me. If you’re real, help me!”
I can’t explain what I felt at that time. I can, however, tell you this: it was the most warm and powerful hug. I felt as if a lifetime of pain was lifted. I could see and feel the sun for the first time in years. I called home, hearing on the other end the sweetest voice I’d ever heard. The voice of my mom.
There’s not necessarily a neat and tidy happy ending to this story. I’m still dealing with the trauma. But God is at work.
I went to rehab and kicked my addictions. It was hard. Really hard. But I graduated and went to work as a counselor at the rehab center—the first graduate to do that. God opened doors for me to work with the police department as an advocate for women trapped in the life I once lived. Then He led me here, to start Sacred Beginnings
God has replaced fear with FAITH, pain with PEACE, trauma with TRUST. I've committed the rest of my life to serve Him and fight for justice for men, women, and children still enslaved.