Warning: The following true story comes from Katariina in Florida and is not suitable for younger readers. In it she describes her difficult, emotive and spiritual journey through abuse, slavery and oppression and then thankfully on into freedom. Oasis was fortunate enought to meet Katariina through Julia, our Oasis advocate in the West Palm Beach area. Julia was one of the various mentors and friends who encouraged Katariina as she started “There is Hope for Me”, an organization that works with girls in the Florida prison, girls who are being trafficked or at risk of being trafficked in the Miami area. Read more below…..
Written by Daniel Tozier
“Do you think one will be enough?”
“Yea, she’s just a kid. One should do the trick.”
After taking the single pill, 13 year old Katariina Rosenblatt began losing consciousness. She looked at the girl and the boy, only 16 and 18, who had brought her to that abandoned building. Their blank faces only stared back, watching her intently.
“You’re going to get very sleepy, so just lie down on the floor,” said the boy who had given her the drug. She initially resisted the unknown substance, but complied when they promised to take her home as soon as she did. But as the two walked out of view and the drug’s effects pulled her down into the dirt, Katariina heard the car’s engine start to life and drive away. She couldn’t move. Her head swam and the world around her dissolved.
A week earlier, Katariina was being led into a hotel room by a 19 year old girl named Lucy*. They had met earlier that summer at the hotel where Katariina and her mother were living, trying to keep their distance from an abusive husband. The Miami summers were hot, and, like most of the children, Katariina passed the time at the hotel pool. It was here that she first met Lucy. Lucy was friendly to her, looking after her while her mother was at work and becoming like a big sister to Katariina. But on the day they walked into that hotel room, their relationship would change. Waiting for them inside was an overweight, 65 year old man sitting on the edge of the bed half-dressed.
Katariina was confused, but before she could say anything, Lucy spoke.
“So how much are you willing to pay?”
Katariina looked up at her, unable to decipher the words.
“500,” he said, reaching over to touch her hair.
“No. She’s a virgin. $550.”
The man thought it over. “Okay.”
Katariina still had no idea what was happening, but standing at the edge of the bed, his fingers running through her hair, she knew something wasn’t right.
“Do you want to sit next to me?” the man asked, patting the bed.
Katariina shook her head and ran to the corner of the room, where she knelt down, facing the nightstand. While the man continued his attempts to make conversation, Lucy began putting marijuana into a small, glass pipe. She had dealt with unwillingness before and knew that drugged kids were much more cooperative.
“Here, take this,” she said, trying to give the pipe to Katariina, who pushed it away.
“Look, it’s good for you!” said the man, taking the pipe and pretending to smoke it.
She ignored him, praying to God the smallest of prayers: “Help me.”
The man was quickly becoming impatient. He had had enough.
“Would anyone be able to hear you if you screamed right now?”
The loaded question hung heavy in the air, slowing down time in that hot Miami hotel room.
“Yes,” she said finally, “I would scream loud. And my mother is downstairs and she would come running.”
The man’s frustration quickly turned to anger.
He stood up and forced Lucy and Katariina from his room. Once outside Lucy began yelling, telling Katariina that she had messed up and that she was in trouble. She stormed off, down the hallway and around the corner. Unwilling to risk Katariina going to police, Lucy arranged to have her driven out to an abandoned building, given a lethal dose of a still unknown drug and left for dead. But God had other plans for Katariina, and as she lay in the dirt, barely conscious, he reached out and woke her up.
“Get up Katariina. You have to get up.” The voice spoke directly to her heart.
Katariina pulled herself up despite the world dipping and shifting beneath her feet. She stumbled through the haze, arms outstretched, until she found a payphone mounted to the wall. She would later be told by a Bell employee that the phone’s service should have been disconnected; basic procedure once a building is abandoned. She pulled the phone off the cradle and heard a dial tone. Barely able to focus, Katariina dialed the operator and managed to give enough details of her surroundings to be rescued.
Later the doctor instructed her mother to keep her awake all night. If she was to fall asleep the drug would take over and she would not wake up. Katariina spent the rest of the night walking up and down the hotel hallways, until the morning light she was never supposed to see peeked through the windows. Katariina would later find out that the entire hotel was being used by the prostitution ring, recruiting children who stayed there and paying the staff to open up rooms and look the other way. Although she escaped this encounter, within the year Katariina would fall head first into Miami’s sex trafficking system.
Her mother soon moved them out of the hotel after drawing the lines between Lucy and her daughter’s increasingly strange behavior. Katariina started at a new middle school, where she found a group of girls who had bonded over their abusive pasts. Katriina’s own abusive father was back in her life, so when her friend, Jackie, offered to host sleepovers, she jumped at the chance. But when she arrived, Jackie’s father and several of his 40-year old friends were there too, sitting with the girls and talking to them. The night took a dangerous turn as the men began choosing girls and disappearing with them out the front door. It didn’t take long for Katariina to be chosen and find out what was happening.
The 14 year old girls were being blindfolded and driven to a secret apartment where the men would have sex with them. Each trip to the apartment cost the men $40. After arriving she was told to sit on the couch while a man and her friend, Mary, went into the bedroom. Waiting there alone she heard God speak to her again. “You are good and I do have a plan for you.” She knew then that she had to get out. She found the door unlocked and ran out into the dark parking lot, where she stood unsure of which streets would take her home. Mary was soon sent after her by one of the men.
“Come back, Kat,” she yelled, “It’s not that bad!”
They argued in the parking lot, but Katariina, without any way home, eventually complied. She followed Mary back into the apartment and unlike the time at the hotel, her innocence was not left intact. Having her first sexual experience forced upon her at 14, left deep emotional scars. This, combined with no example of a healthy relationship and a developing cocaine addiction, made 14 year old Katariina an easy target for Miami pimps looking to recruit. It was Paco, a 70-year old Cuban man living in her apartment building, who got a hold of her first. After a few months of supporting Katariina, both emotionally and with drugs, Paco had gained her trust and began regularly sending her on “dates.”
As she undressed in the bedroom of one of the customers, she caught her reflection in a mirror. It was devastating. “This is it,” she thought, “I’m a prostitute. That is what I am.” But God heard these words and right there He responded, speaking straight to Katariina’s heart.
“No. I have a plan for you. This is not who you are. I have something better for you.”
But it would be another two years before God’s plans for her life could begin to take shape. She would continue being trafficked and struggling with substance abuse until 1987, when she watched a friend get arrested for cocaine possession. It was a traumatic experience and fearing that she would suffer the same fate, Katariina decided to quit the lifestyle that had plagued her for the last four years. She prayed to God for help, giving her life back to Him in exchange for deliverance and, without the aid of rehab, Katariina quit cocaine and cut off all ties to her former life.
It would take years of healing and escaping an unhealthy marriage to finally find freedom, but Katariina is now using her dark past to help others, doing everything she can to keep girls from falling into the same dark places that she did. Katariina is currently working on her Ph.D and last January, she founded There Is H.O.P.E. (Healing, Opportunity, Purpose and Empowerment) For Me, a non-profit organization that reaches out to girls who are involved in, our dangerously close to, human trafficking. Katariina spends her nights at truck stops, prostitution circuits, hotels and strip clubs finding girls who have experienced sexual abuse and trafficking. She invites them to a weekly support group where, using biblically based curriculum and her own personal testimony, Katariina begins to help these girls find peace by introducing them to the God who saved her. As a certified professional life coach, she helps them work through their abuse and invites FBI and local police to educate the girls. Amazing successes have been made and Katariina’s blog recounts story after story of saved lives.
Katariina’s message of freedom and God’s salvation is now spreading from Miami to Palm Beach and survivors are finding her, asking if they can join H.O.P.E.
To each of the girls she tells them, “If there’s hope for me, there’s hope for you.”
*Some names have been changed
Rita's Story from Oasis India
Rita is a four-year-old girl who was recently rescued from a brothel in Mumbai. The owner of the brothel was planning to sell her into prostitution.
In a brothel in Mumbai lives a four-year-old girl named Rita. With her mother dead and her father in prison, she had no choice but to stay with the brothel owner, whom she sees as a grandmother. However, the bond is not mutual. To the owner, Rita is simply an investment and she plans to soon sell her into prostitution, earning her a large amount of money (traffickers pay 10 times more for minors).
When we heard about this, the Oasis India team sprung into action and headed out with the police to rescue Rita. The operation was successful and Rita’s case was brought before the Child Welfare Committee who had her placed in a government protected home where she will be provided with food, healthcare and education. A social worker from Oasis has been visiting her regularly and reports that she looks happier and healthier every day.
When we (the Pomona TFC) met with Agent Deam from the FBI to give her the Freedom Bags, she shared with us how recently they rescued a 14 year old girl in South LA. Her pimp (“boyfriend”) had just started selling her that night, so they were so excited that they rescued her when they did! She was wearing 4” high heels (typical attire forced on them by their pimp) and the first thing she did when she got to a safe place, was to take off those heels and throw them in the trash. It was a physical gesture and a symbolic one of ridding herself of the Life. Agent Deam expressed how wonderful it would be to have flip flops to give to the girls because they literally come off the streets with nothing.
Once a month we visit David and Margaret home in La Verne, where we reach out to girls who have been sexually exploited. Several girls are attending Flood on Wed nights, and several are making commitments to follow Christ! And on April 4th, 3 of the girls were baptized. God is really using Traffick Free Pomona and the Freedom Bags we’ve put together at PFB. We gave several bags to the FBI in Riverside County and recently the lead agent called me and shared that he just gave a bag to a young girl who is serving as a witness in a case they are working on against the pimp. She has been reunited with her biological family and he gave the bag to her in front of them. She was very emotional, as was her family, and was overwhelmed when she saw the wonderful items in the bag, especially the handwritten note from the PFB member who assembled the bag for her. The agent told her that this bag was a gift from people who loved and cared about her, and that it wasn’t for anything she’d done but was simply a gift. Then the agent shared with me that this moment was the highlight of his career with the Bureau!