Jennifer Beagle sat down with locals in Hardin County on Saturday to share her story of struggle and survival.
Girls’ Empowerment Tea keynote speaker Beagle, a survivor of human trafficking, also shared a story of hope with tea guests.
“I’ve been so lucky to have a lot of great people in my life who have brought a lot of healing into my life,” she said.
The tea, for girls ages 12 to 17, was the first in a series of events presented by District 6710’s Rotary Club End Human Trafficking to help educate the community about human trafficking.
Bonnie Wheeler, president of the club, said the group’s goal was “to educate as many people as possible about the dangers of human trafficking.”
Wheeler said that while events of trafficking in outside individuals that a person is unaware of occur, there are circumstances in which people can traffic their own family members or children.
“We felt it would be important to not just educate, but to visualize, if you will, a person who has…overcome this life and is able to share this story,” Wheeler said.
The event was held at the Brown-Pusey House, with support from Silverleaf Sexual Trauma Recovery Services.
Originally from Florida, Beagle was sexually abused at a young age, she said, and began abusing alcohol and substances, acting and fighting early in life.
Beagle got married and had a child when she was a teenager, left the relationship, and then married a second time.
Through her second husband’s sister, she started using crack cocaine, she said. They began to visit a drug dealer where he would give them drugs, but after a few visits Beagle began to be trafficked.
“When his sister put me on crack and then started selling me so she could get drugs, it was really easy because my whole life has been marked by trauma,” she said. declared.
Beagle said that for eight years she was a victim of all types of human trafficking in Gainesville, Florida. She said she had been raped and left for dead hundreds of times and had a three-page arrest file.
At one point, one of her traffickers tried to break down the door to the closet Beagle was in, threatening to kill her. After that, Beagle says she left and entered a church.
She said she came “face to face” with Jesus Christ and also met a support group of women who helped lift her up.
“Thanks to this group of women, I discovered that I had a voice, that I had a strong voice and that I didn’t have to be ashamed of my life,” she said.
After working in Florida in various non-profit capacities, she founded House of Hope for Women in Gainesville, which provides housing and support for women in difficulty.
“I was able to take all of these real trafficking experiences and really understand what had happened to me and educate these women on that as well,” she said.
For his work, Beagle received the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Directors Community Leadership Award for Education and Combating Human Trafficking.
Eventually, Beagle said she was able to reunite with her first biological child and they became best friends. She said her son asking her to ordain his marriage was “the ultimate forgiveness”.
“I stand before you now with success and that’s what I want to teach everyone who has been touched by sex trafficking,” she said.
At the event, Beagle said electronic devices such as smart phones and internet access are potential ways for human traffickers to contact young people and should be used with caution.
Naavah Lopez, 16, who attended the event with her mother, club member Rachel Lopez, said the Beagle story had an impact despite the difficult details.
“It makes you think about how you can prevent this,” she said.
Wheeler said the club has meetings the first and third Thursday of each month at 6 p.m.
The club is hosting a second event called Human Trafficking Training and Awareness from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday at the Elizabethtown Police Department Community Hall, 114 S. Mulberry St. in Elizabethtown.
Andrew Harp can be reached at 270-505-1414 or email@example.com.