We had the opportunity to interview Rethreaded advocate and supporter Katrina Abdullah. We hope her words inspire you to make a difference by speaking up when you see something that doesn’t feel right. Together, we can make a difference and change lives.
Q: Can you share with us why Human Trafficking Awareness month is close to home for you?
A: “I lost my daughter in 2018 to a drug overdose. Part of the story that people don’t talk about is drug addiction and human trafficking go hand-in-hand.
I believe that there is a lot of shame associated with this issue and the words, “sex trafficking.” I want to share my daughter’s story to put a face to this epidemic and end the stigma associated with this issue. It’s really about awareness and changing the narrative and ending the cycle.
Q: (How) Do you believe the system failed Kye?
A: “100% She had originally got in trouble for selling drugs to an undercover cop while being trafficked. I was afraid of the trafficker that she interacted with, I am still a little afraid to speak up on this issue as well. I wanted to save my daughter so I wrote the judge a letter and asked if she could go to rehab to get help. The State Attorney’s Office wanted Kye to admit to things and was criminalized when they didn’t look at the why or see her for the victim in the situation and not as the perpetrator. All I wanted to do was help my daughter. I felt helpless. I didn’t know where to turn. I kept seeing my daughter on Backpage and knew I needed to help her. I really felt the system failed us and I thought I could trust that the Judicial system would help her but it didn’t. I thought I was helping her by turning her in and then two days later her trafficker had bailed her out.
Q: What can be done to improve the system?
A: “I was very glad to see Backpage was shut down. I used to have to scroll the site nightly to see if my daughter was on there. There were hundreds and hundreds of women on this site. These women look sick and in need of treatment and people would still “buy” them. I believe that when women are picked up for a charge in this manner it needs to be processed differently, it needs to be named what it’s called, “human trafficking,” how else can we change? These women need help and don’t need to be tried they need care.
If you see something say something. I was there holding an ad of my daughter selling herself and brought it to the cops and because she was 21 they wouldn’t do anything. I am her mother and I believe in the future this should be handled differently and help should be given when a pleading mother is asking for assistance for their child. She was in danger and it was unsafe; it was activity the police should have been able to do something about it. The traffickers know the law and they know how to get around them. There are so many women and children that this happens to those who don’t have a family who would be there to take action for them. Those women can essentially disappear and no one would come looking for them.
Q: Why are organizations like Rethreaded so important? What do you believe Rethreaded has to offer?
A: “I met Kristin Keen at a realtor event and heard of Rethreaded. I was able to learn more and I was able to share my story with her. Soon after, I walked into the doors of Rethreaded and learned about what Rethreaded does for women after losing my daughter. I wondered why my daughter didn't know about this place? Why wasn’t this an option for my daughter? I learned about the high rates of sex trafficking in Jacksonville and was floored. I felt like I finally had a place to share my story and be accepted. I played the song ‘Reckless Love' at her service and as soon as I left Rethreaded it came on the radio and I texted Kristin right away and said I am all in, whatever I can do to help.
The song is based on Luke 15:3-7 and it’s about if a shepherd loses one sheep out of 100 he will leave the 99 to bring back the one lost sheep and rejoice once it’s recovered. A metaphor for how God will rejoice over one saved soul. I had been praying so hard for a place to connect and share her story and I believe Rethreaded is the hands and feet of Jesus out in the community.
Q: How can individuals help the women who are still out there?
A: “See the people who are normally unseen to you. All the broken people who we try to avoid eye contact with, we need to stop trying to avoid them; reach out, ask them their names, ask if they're okay and if they need help. It’s going to take the whole community. Make the call if you see something that doesn’t feel right. Spend time with organizations like Rethreaded and City Rescue Mission, whatever you have to give, give to others. We have to teach our men to respect women. Speak positively over our women and teach them and make them aware of what goes on out there. If this happens to you or a roommate or a friend please say something. Let’s make our girls aware of this issue while still in school so they can spot it and help their friends and know what goes on.
Q: How has your life changed since you began using your platform and business to fight against human trafficking?
A: “I run a large real estate office, and one thing I am charged with is growing our agent count, their businesses, and increasing opportunities for them. God has put it on my heart to be faithful to him and my agents have embraced the cause as well. I was nominated to be a speaker at a national convention, Lady Leaders Networking Event, as well as speaking at Rethreaded events since sharing Kye’s story. Since I have opened the door and started talking about it has allowed others to realize it’s okay to talk about and share their struggles and their stories. We’ve shared information on what to look out for and how to help our children. I am going to start a support group for women who have lost their children as I have. A friend of my daughter’s mother just lost her daughter on Christmas day and I have been able to be there for her. I am so thankful that it is the right time for me to build this support group to help other women who have gone through the same thing.
We are so grateful for Katrina's bravery. Despite an unimaginable loss, she is still using her platform to change lives. If Katrina's story inspired you to do more, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Together, we can put a stop to this world-wide issue. In the meantime, check out our blog, Top Signs of Human Trafficking to learn about what we can all keep a look out for.
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