A Human Trafficking Survivor Shares Her Story

April Thacker, as told to Suzanne Goldsmith
April Thacker, case manager at Freedom a la Cart

I first spoke with April Thacker by phone when I was writing an article about Sister Nadine Buchanan, a Dominican nun who helps women caught in a cycle of prostitution and addiction on Columbus’ West Side. April, once one of those women, is now a case manager at Freedom a la Cart, a workforce training program for survivors of human trafficking. When I later met with April in person, she gently told me she objected to the way I had described her in my article, calling her “a former addict and prostitute.”

“I was those things,” she said. “But I don’t want your readers to feel that I chose that life. I want them to see the real picture.”

Here is her story, excerpted from a two-hour interview.—Suzanne Goldsmith

I grew up on the West Side of Columbus, in the neighborhood called the Bottoms. My mother and stepdad were addicted to alcohol and drugs. The smell of marijuana and empty beer bottles on the table was the norm in my home. One year my mom made ornaments out of marijuana joints and hung them on the Christmas tree.

I had my first drink of alcohol when I was 6 years old. I asked my stepdad what he was drinking, and he gave me some. It was Black Velvet. He told me I would hate it, and I did—it tasted horrible. But I liked the attention he gave me when I drank it. After that, every time they had a party at the house—which was all the time—he would give me shots. People would laugh, and I would be the center of attention. By the time I was a young teenager, I’d developed a taste for alcohol.

I can’t remember having a schedule, growing up. Our family life was dysfunctional and unpredictable. I don’t remember my mom getting me ready for school or sitting down with me to do homework. I’d open the refrigerator 10 times a day, hoping there’d be something new in there for me to eat—but there never was. Yet there were always people around, a never-ending party. None of this seemed wrong to my childish eyes. It was just my normal.

By the time I was 16, I was a high school dropout and a full-blown alcoholic. I was smoking weed and taking pills daily. As I got older I would find jobs, but never held one down for long. I had no direction and no positive role models to help me find my way. Looking back, I see what my traffickers must have seen in me: easy prey.

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