LIMA — Marlene Carson was just a teenager when she was abducted and introduced to human trafficking, being forced to perform sex acts against her will. She spent eight months in that world and now helps others leave that lifestyle.
In 2008, she founded Rahab’s Hideaway, a facility in Columbus to help those victims of human trafficking and prostitution.
On Sunday, she brought her message to the Lima area, speaking at Firm Foundation Christian Center in Elida.
“I’m a survivor of human trafficking. I was taken when I was 15 years old. As a virgin girl, raised in the church, and I was put into prostitution. They didn’t call it trafficking back then because I’m a little older, but it was forced prostitution,” said Carson.
One might think that Carson would not want to talk about her experience, but it’s that experience that brings a credibility to her message. She’s lived it.
“It is a difficult thing to relive, but I found it necessary because I think we are the antidote. When I say we, I mean survivors of human trafficking. We know what it is. We know what it looks like and we can educate and bring the awareness to the issue. We definitely know what it is,” she said.
Gaining her freedom from her traffickers proved fortunate for Carson.
“There was a bust and he got busted. The trafficker got busted and even though I don’t like the word ‘rescue,’ I was rescued, if you will,” she said.
Her message in Elida was aimed at three different types of people.
“I wanted to help the parent who may be struggling with a teenager who feels like, even if they’re not being trafficked they’re not going in the right direction. I wanted to empower the teenager to know that even if you are around things that look like trafficking what to do and how to stay safe and then lastly, educate the community on what to do if you see it,” she said.
In 2016, she started The Switch, an anti-trafficking network.
“We basically do education public policy and advocacy,” she said.
Carson says if you see something that looks like it could be trafficking, you should call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 888-373-7888.
Reach Sam Shriver at 567-242-0409.