BILLINGS — It’s estimated anywhere from 15,000 to 50,000 people nationwide are forced into sex trafficking every year.
On Saturday, Billings resident Thalia (whose last name is being kept private), shared her story at the seventh annual run for HER campaign.
"I have been suffering for too long to sit here and stay silent. I’m tired of being quiet," said Thalia on Saturday.
It’s a life she was forced into at a very young age.
"My father sold me to a man when I was eight years old and then my father went to prison. The man that he sold me to kept me for many years. I don’t remember a whole lot (from that early) but I remember it becoming my normal, being sold for a profit and just being with a bunch of other men that I wasn’t really familiar with," added Thalia.
It was a life of emotional and physical terror that she was relentlessly exposed to.
"I was constantly stuck in a state of fear, I was always paralyzed; I couldn’t really have a conversation with anybody. I couldn’t go out into public without freaking out," she added.
A state that ultimately led her down another path.
"I loved the drugs because I could escape what was happening to me, I didn’t have to feel the pain, I didn’t have to feel the fear. I felt like I was invincible because I was high," said Thalia.
When drugs couldn’t numb the pain anymore, she felt she had only one option.
"I just wanted to die. I wanted to give up. I didn’t feel like there was any help for me, I felt like I was just nothing. I just had a price tag and that’s it. All I was good for was for other people’s pleasure... It’s (suicide) been a very constant thing in my life, and I have tried in many different forms. I have put myself in the ICU more than once," Thalia said.
But then she found the HER campaign. A place designed to help victims of human trafficking rediscover life again.
An organization with an impact far beyond just Billings.
"The HER campaign has impacted women not just in our local area but across the state as well. And actually women across the nation come and stay in the safe house we have here in Billings," said Run for HER participant, Jessy Catt on Saturday.
The event Saturday saw over 200 people and raised over 30,000 dollars for victims, the largest in both categories in the seven year run of the event.
"Tahlia’s voice is super, super powerful. We’ve hosted seven runs for HER but we’ve never had a face for HER. For Tahlia to have the courage and the bravery to step up and say this is my story, I am HER, you are running for me, what this does affects me, affects my baby, affects my friends. That is powerful," said Selah Catt, the program manager for the HER campaign.
Tahlia said that she struggles with the realities of her past but she continues to look forward at the life she can create for her and her new baby. A life she says wouldn’t be possible without the HER campaign.
"If I didn’t have the HER campaign. I wouldn’t be alive and that’s just the truth," Tahlia added.