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Jasmine Grace Inspired through Sharing her Story of Triumph with Students and Community Members

Jasmine Grace addressing Endicott community members
Grace shared how she is spreading hope to those affected by domestic sex trafficking, homelessness, domestic violence, and addiction.

Last night Speaker, Author, Founder, and Director of Bags of Hope Ministries, Jasmine Grace, shared her story of triumph with 90 students and 20 community members including some residents of Project Cope in Lynn. Grace spoke about how she’s using her voice to raise awareness for women enslaved in human trafficking situations.

A survivor of domestic sex trafficking herself, Grace shared her own personal story which includes now being an advocate and abolitionist for human trafficking and her road to recovery, relapse, and redemption.

Grace was candid in sharing about her life as a prostitute and heroin addict and shared snapshots in to that life by sharing excerpts from her diary. These struggles eventually landed her a seat in a 12-step program, a job in the anti-trafficking movement, and a place in a community church.

I couldn't just sit back knowing I am a survivor without going back into the fire and getting the others and spreading awareness so it doesn't happen to other young girls and women.

Following the talk, attendees worked with Grace to create 65 Bags of Hope. Bags of Hope is an outreach ministry out of the Emmanuel Gospel Center that Grace founded as a way to reach out in a practical way to vulnerable women living on the streets or in programs throughout Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Bags of Hope Ministries is driven by the community and many different groups of people donate items, fill the bags, or hand them out.

The mission is to let these women know that there is a better way and that there are people who can help in collaboration with the programs serving these women affected by trafficking, prostitution, addiction, and homelessness.

Andrea Rhoades, assistant director of community service, says of the event, “We are so excited to have had Jasmine come to campus to speak to our students and community. I am blown away by her story and strength. I feel it is extremely important to create dialogue around sensitive and vulnerable topics such as addiction and human trafficking and hope our students learned a lot from this event.”

We spoke to Grace about her story, strength, and resilience. Here’s what she had to say.

Can you share a little bit about your story and history?
Upon graduating high school, while attending North Shore Community College, I met a guy a few years older than me at a local night club. We began to "date" and as the relationship got more serious he began to manipulate me into believing that the commercial sex trade was a great way to make money. He promised me all the things that a young girl may desire. Things like financial security, a home and family, as well as lots of expensive "stuff". I would end up being trafficked from the age 19-24. Upon escaping, I then became addicted to drugs as a way to cope with the trauma. I also struggled to leave the life of prostitution behind because that's all I had known for five years. Becoming a productive member of society wouldn't happen until I got clean and sober in 2007.

Why does the world need to hear your story now?
To educate themselves about the realities of human trafficking so that they understand that it happens in their own backyard and that anyone can be vulnerable to it. 

Students filled Bags of Hope with basic hygiene items,
a resource card, and encouraging notes.
Explain what Bags of Hope Ministries is? The objective?
It is an outreach non-profit that serves vulnerable women by filling bags with basic hygiene items, a resource card, and encouraging note. We also run 8-10-week groups in substance abuse homes and mentor the survivors we meet. We partner with 25 programs around Massachusetts. Programs include domestic violence shelters, needle exchanges, homeless shelters, safe homes, and drug recovery programs. We also give bags out to women we find or meet on the street. We give out about 1,000 bags each year thanks to amazing people and organizations who donate. 

How many people have been affected? How many lives changed? 
It's hard to say how many lives are changed but lives are definitely touched by the kindness and generosity that Bags of Hope brings. The women have said that they feel loved, cared for, and feel hopeful when they receive a bag.

Tell us a little bit about your book, The Diary of Jasmine Grace: Trafficked. Recovered. Redeemed.?
The book was published in 2017 as a way to reach more people. Survivors and non-survivors can get a lot out of it. It's based on my actual diary entries from when I was trafficked and addicted. However, I don't leave the reader in a state of hopelessness, because I also put a present-day reflection after each entry to show who I am today and how far I have come. 

What is the message of your talk? 
That there is a way out and we do recover. Also, to offer women in the commercial sex trade mercy and not judgment. Because no little girl dreams of becoming a prostitute. 

What do you hope the students took away from the event?
That it could happen to them or a friend and to know what to look out for. 

Why have you made this your life's work?
I couldn't just sit back knowing I am a survivor without going back into the fire and getting the others and spreading awareness so it doesn't happen to other young girls and women. 

What's next for you? Your end game?
Continuing the work, growing and expanding our organization into New Hampshire, and hiring more survivors to speak, mentor, and run groups. And, also, “ending the game.”