A Beacon of Hope for Young Trafficking Victims
Twenty-five years ago, Sheri Lochridge walked through the doors of Covenant House New Orleans, alone and scared, a victim of a foster care system that failed her miserably.
A child who, before she found Covenant House, was living on the streets.
Today, as our Senior Trafficking Case Manager, Sheri is an irreplaceable force in the lives of young trafficking victims. Since March 2016, this heroic woman has personally counseled over 200 young victims of sex trafficking.
“Too many people think that once a young person is rescued from a trafficker, once they are free, that the worst is over,” says Sheri. “But when a young person leaves trafficking, it is still such a long journey…
“Trafficking is more than selling sex,” says Sheri. “Trafficking is young people being physically and sexually assaulted. Trafficking is torture. It means victims being kept up for days. It means forced starvation. Recovery for victims is long, and complicated, and takes the efforts of a lot of good people.
“What we might consider the simplest things in life can be overwhelmingly traumatic for a victim of trafficking,” says Sheri. “It could take months for a trafficking victim to take a shower, because the last time they were in a shower, they were raped and beaten. Sleep can be so difficult because just closing their eyes after all they’ve been through can be so traumatic. It can take years and years of recovery.”
Sheri remembers the details of each of the young people she counsels as if they were her own children. “One young girl was brought down south from Ohio by her trafficker,” she says. “I was not prepared for what walked through the door. She had a black eye, a fractured jaw, her arms and back covered in bruises. She had been pistol-whipped by her pimp because she was too tired to earn money for him that day. Still, for two days after, men paid to have sex with her even though they could see she was injured and in distress …
“I am convinced that if law enforcement did not step in, she would be dead.”
The young girl was brought to Covenant House, but still lived in fear. “She was petrified that her trafficker could be released at any moment,” says Sheri. “She followed me around for the next three days. We had to try to convince her that she did not need to barricade herself in her room ... that she was safe with us.”
That is one of the many gifts Sheri brings to young people who have been abused in the most horrific of ways. She is a beacon of safety, of love and of hope for our kids.
“Our young people are blessed by Sheri – and the grace that surrounds the care she provides each and every one of them twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week,” says Executive Director, Jim Kelly.
“I see the kids,” Sheri continues, “who come to Covenant House every day. Tired, lonely, humiliated, demoralized by what they’ve had to do to survive. Maybe we can’t stop their pain today or tomorrow. But with love and support, we can help trafficking victims to live again, to dream again. I’ve seen it happen. That’s what we are called to do at Covenant House.”