Human Trafficking Survivors Graduate From CATCH Program

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The focus of an innovative Franklin County Court program is to break the cycle of addiction, abuse and street slavery.

It aims to free women from the bonds of human trafficking and lead them to healthy, productive lives.

10TV was there Friday for an extraordinary achievement for these women and their families.

They are women who have seen the worst of what the world has to offer.

"I thought it was just a party,” Stephanie Rollins said. “And the reality of it was, I was being used and tossed around and sold without me even knowing."

"I had to do stuff that I did not want to do for the drug,” Nella McIntyre said. “Like do something with a man."

They were slaves to addiction and those who would treat them as property.

"I was able to just disconnect from my body to just...making the unacceptable, acceptable," Rollins said.

"I didn't have no soul, no spirit, I didn't have no heart,” McIntyre said. “I was just empty inside."

They were devalued and desperate, spiraling toward a near-certain fate.

"Somebody was going to kill me,” McIntyre said. “I was going to get in a car, and that was going to be my last day."

"I couldn't take anymore,” Rollins said. “I was dying."

McIntyre's turning point came more than two years ago, when a friend who'd escaped the streets brought her to the courtroom of Franklin County Judge Paul Herbert.

That’s where she found a sisterhood of survivors.

Along with support from those who have walked the same dark path, Herbert's CATCH Court program offers intensive supervision, trauma-based counseling, and drug and alcohol treatment.

"We're going to load you up,” Herbert told McIntyre. “We're going to give you resources, anything you need, because you used your voice, alright?"

Rollins also found her way from the streets to Herbert's program.

"They held me and molded me and they guided me and held my hand like an infant. Just slowly helping me crawl until I could walk," Rollins said.

Along with four other CATCH Court graduates, McIntyre and Rollins walked through the gardens of the Ohio Governor's Mansion to a standing ovation.

All of them clean and sober, proud and productive, and free from the shame of their pasts.

They were rewarded with a diploma, and a legal clean slate.

"It took me a long time to get where I'm at today,” McIntyre said. “I graduated today and I'm proud of myself."

They have a fresh start, and for the first time in a long time, a hopeful future.

Something Rollins wrote about in verse: "Today the time has come, slowly hatching from my warm cocoon. Ready to stretch my wings. Wow, how beautiful! Look out world- watch me fly!"

Franklin University recently studied the CATCH Court Program and found impressive results: a 35% reduction in prostitution arrests, and no new criminal charges for 77% of all CATCH Court graduates.

 

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