No place is safe from human trafficking.
"It's an equal-opportunity evil," said Jeanette Bradley, a survivor of the crime. "People think it's not here. I tell people there's no ZIP code that's exempt. It's everywhere."
The 59-year-old will be a guest speaker at Gahanna's New Life Church, 3690 N. Stygler Road, from 9 to 11 a.m. Saturday, May 4, during a human-trafficking symposium to raise awareness of the dangers children face and to give parents practical ways to protect them.
It was the grace of God, Bradley said, that delivered her from a life of alcohol, drugs and a man who had forced her to have sex with men as part of drug deals.
"He burned a lot of bridges with drug dealers, and he started throwing me in the deal," she said. "He said here's this amount of money, then ordered me to have sex and do what (they) wanted."
Bradley said the legal definition of human trafficking is anyone controlled by threat or coercion for profit. People are used for crimes like prostitution, drug peddling and slavery.
Bradley, a Westerville resident, grew up in a middle-class home. She was born a month after her 26-year-old father died.
"I was mad at God almost all my life," she said. "I had a grudge."
Her attitude was fueled further when she and her older sister were sexually abused by her stepfather.
She was 12.
"My sister broke down in school," Bradley said. "When I was called on the PA, I knew what it was. Debbie told the story, and I gave the same story. Mom wouldn't believe us."
Life grew worse from there.
Bradley was gang raped at age 15 and left in a ditch along a country road to die.
"By the grace of God, someone found me," she said.
She continued to make poor choices, though, and was a full-fledged alcoholic by age 33.
Bradley ended up homeless, living in the streets on the west side of Columbus.
"I was invited by drug dealers in December of 1993 to live in a crack house," she said. "But whatever they said to do, I had to do. At the crack house apartment, they got evicted. I didn't have a place to go. Mom didn't want to deal with me. My sister helped me find a place to stay.
"It was God all the way," she said. "My sister asked if I wanted to accept the Lord. I said yes, and I was instantly delivered from drugs and alcohol. That was amazing. To be addicted and then be totally free. I didn't know what peace was."
She relapsed several times, Bradley said, but she came to her senses.
"By 1998, I had tried to kill myself over a dozen times," she said. "I felt the Lord say, 'Are you in or out?' God had to break me to bless me. I've been blessed to work with victims. It has been amazing to see. I love the Lord so much. I won't ever stop talking about him."
Bradley developed a street outreach for the Salvation Army for prostitutes and trafficked victims on the streets.
In 2003, she founded a street ministry called 2nd Chance, helping hundreds of homeless, the poor, prostitutes and anyone who needs a second chance.
Her first book, I'm Still Standing, was released in March, detailing her life with all of its tragedies and triumphs.
"I hope it brings hope to girls and people in need," she said. "I want to go full-time ministry. My hope is to open a home for ladies: 2nd Chance Center."
For more about Bradley, go to her website: 2ndchanceministry.net.
In addition to Bradley, Megan Crawford from Gracehaven will be a guest speaker at New Life. Gracehaven is a nonprofit started in 2008 to address child sex trafficking in Ohio.
"We are doing this to promote awareness and, hopefully, help someone who might be caught in this horrific crime," said Lisa Ernst, New Life spokesperson.
Admission to the symposium is free, but pre-registration is requested at ColumbusEyesWideOpen.com.