A Survivor’s Story—From Trafficked to Thriving: Part 2

So often it’s the smallest decisions we make that change our lives in the most monumental ways.

For Heather Pounds, it was a split-second decision to forego her turn-signal that drove her out of her life of bondage.

By that point a young woman in her early 30s, Heather had been trafficked for the better part of 18 years.

She was a mom five times over, her children all living away from her, their fathers the men who had abused and sold Heather over the years.

When she sat in the car that early morning in Charleston, she was without her latest trafficker, who’d let her out of his sight long enough to drive herself to Walmart to grab a carry-on bag. Later that day she was to fly to New York to meet a “buyer” with whom neither she nor her trafficker had ever interacted.

She’d already survived being shot, countless assaults, a debilitating drug addiction, and the day-in, day-out soul-crushing life of a trafficked victim—what amounted to a lifetime being terrified.

But this time was different.

This time Heather knew if she flew to New York she wasn’t coming back.

The transaction was diabolical, a scheme between two monsters—Heather’s seller and buyer. She would be driven back down to South Carolina, where her buyer would offer her up as prize along the way to his various “clients.”

She knew she wouldn’t survive this.

Somewhere deep inside her, Heather believed she was worth surviving.

And maybe, just maybe, she even deserved to thrive.

That seed had been planted a few years back, when she’d been locked up and court-ordered to attend a prison ministry program. She’d been introduced to Christ and felt a stirring in her gut every time the offer came to submit her life to Him. The call became so strong, she tells me, it made her feel physically sick to her stomach. Nonetheless, she resisted the call, got out of prison, and went back to what she knew.

But God did not forget about Heather Pounds. And He never wastes a moment.

Heather knows now that needing a carry-on bag and her trafficker giving her leave to go buy it was all God-orchestrated.

She knows now that on that short drive, as she struggled with which was worse, the terror of fleeing her trafficker or the terror of staying with him, it was Jesus riding along and providing directions.

And so it was, when that light turned red at that lonely Charleston intersection and that Charleston deputy pulled up behind her, Heather quickly reasoned she could exchange one prison for another.

But only one offered life.

The light changed and Heather made a left-hand turn. But she left off her blinker. In that moment the blue lights went on—and so too, Heather knows now, did the lights of heaven.

Heather Ann Pounds, at long last, was free.

She would serve two years in the South Carolina Department of Corrections, behind bars for sure, but finally unleashed from so many of the demons that had controlled her life.

She was released in July 2010. Since then, she has spent the last decade rebuilding, restoring, restarting and pushing through trauma and setbacks. She counsels and guides others now, and while she may have looked back at her old life, she has never gone back.

“How?” I ask her. “How do you defeat those voices in your head that we all have, the ones that constantly tell us we’re not good enough?”

“What would it say to my kids about the Jesus I love and I’m always talking about if I were to go back?” she replies.

Today, Heather is reconciled with all five of her children. Her eldest son is serving our country in the United States Air Force. She’s busy raising her two youngest, a 17-year-old son who’ll be graduating high school this year and a 13-year-old daughter who’s finding it very hard to get anything over on her mom—a mom who, likewise, struggles with not allowing worry for that daughter to consume her.

She knows better than anyone what’s out there. What can go wrong.

But then, Jesus. He’s the One Heather says continues to help her make it all right, the One Heather didn’t know when she was her daughter’s age, the One making all the difference for all of them now.

For her, the days of being a victim are long gone. She is a survivor with a Savior, and a woman on a mission to help others like her turn forever away from their traffickers.

Starting this month, look for our compelling video stories like Heather’s on all Lighthouse for Life social media platforms. If you are a business that would like to sponsor a video vignette highlighting a survivor story, local law enforcement like Sheriff Leon Lott, or health care advocates, please let us know by contacting Donna Coffin at info@lighthouseforlife.org.

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