Jeffery's Hope - End Sex Trafficking - #WhenIBecameFree
When I met Lisa we were at an event in Elroy, Wisconsin. A unique festival, one that set out to educate the general public on human trafficking, Everyday People Against Trafficking. My project, #WhenIBecameFree, was offered a booth. I shared that booth with the survivors I have gotten to know and many of whom have told their #WhenIBecameFree story. They've bonded together and have formed a new resource in our area, right here in Juneau County. It is a group now known as Survivors Offering Support (S.O.S.), Juneau County. A group which aims to offer support and resources to anyone experiencing abuse or healing from abuse. As part of the effort, soon they will be working to get Kelli's Haven off the ground and running. A program that will hopefully save lives and educate our community all at the same time by offering many places throughout our area for those fleeing violence or who are in danger, to find a safe place to call law enforcement and/or an advocate.
Lisa approached our booth and inquired about what we do - throughout speaking to her my eyes were focused on her shirt and the picture of the young man who was born the same year as my baby boy and who resembled my dear sweet innocent, Justin. I just had to ask. Little did I know I was about to hear a mother's greatest nightmare. A story that touches on a topic currently taking over headlines but often is about or focused on females. Jeffrey was a victim of sex trafficking. He was from Oakdale, Wisconsin, a short drive from my home in Mauston. It was when he moved to Madison that his life would forever change and soon end. How did I not know about this story sooner? Oakdale is just a step over the Juneau and Monroe counties line. I had been the editor of the Juneau County Messenger - how did I not know?
Jeffrey passed away in 2016 at the tender age of 17, just before turning 18. According to his obituary: "Jeffrey had a compassionate soul and loved to draw, write poetry, photography, music and ride his longboard. His memory will live on through each of us as we continue to fight for those who are suffering. Jeffrey is now free from pain and the smile we all knew and loved has returned. We will hold him in our hearts forever."
Lisa spoke about her son with great passion as she shared the rest of his story. Such is the case with many young people, Jeffrey struggled to fit into a world not ready for him. He had some issues with mental health and drugs. It was when he moved to Madison that he met two men who would be the hammers to an early coffin. They exploited his vulnerabilities and soon advertised him as a possession for the right price. They manipulated his young pliable mind and soon would become his pimps, drugs kept Jeffrey chained to them. According to a report, those two men were both known sex offenders. Jeffrey's short life ended by a heroin overdose.
Lisa is now a mom on a mission to change the world in honor of her son's memory. She has been working with videographers and through a grant have developed a documentary that will be used in schools to teach teens about the dangers that exist in our world. Jeffrey's short life and pain filled final moments will serve to save lives. This effort is known as Jeffrey's Hope.
What do you say to a mother who has lost her baby boy to a cold world? I sat there imagining her pain, looking at his photo, knowing her precious baby would be the same age as my baby boy, had Jeffrey lived. My heart broke for her.
She then explained that Jeffrey knew he was not to be on this Earth long, his diaries shared that insight. He knew that this was his purpose and he would die young. Those words rattled in my mind as she spoke them. How can life be so cruel to take a young life so that his memory may serve to save future ones?
SUPPORT WHEN I BECAME FREE!
GOOD NEWS - for that mini-documentary I will be working with a student from ILead Charter School who is an experienced videographer, Thomas Houy.
50 percent of the profits will go to Survivors Offering Support (S.O.S.), of Juneau County and to a crisis fund and Kelli's Haven. I will also donate 25 percent of the funds to ILead Charter School! The remaining profits will help recoup some of my losses and pay for promotions. This is not about me getting rich, this is about making our community and others - building resources and awareness.
Any and all donations are welcome!
Go Fund Me Page
Any way you choose to support this effort is greatly appreciated! Even if it is just sharing my blog, the website, or liking and sharing the Facebook page.
Thank you to Wisconsin River Meats and Benders' Family Restaurant for being official sponsors of #WhenIBecameFree. Give a like to their their Facebook page (click links above) and let them know how appreciative we all are that they are supporting survivors finding their voices!
Also, my baby boy who has donated his own hard earned cash and in-kind support as he will be writing and performing the music for the video, Kyle Roberts. Give a like to his Facebook page.
Soon to be added as a sponsor will be The Dirty Turtle.