One of the biggest problems facing the United States right now is human trafficking. It’s a huge problem here in Louisiana, especially in New Orleans.
The Eden House serves as a "safe haven" for women who've been able to escape a life of slavery. It’s a place that helps women turn their lives around.
The simple joys in life are often taken for granted, like a simple smile and a little love. But Clemmie Greenlee spent decades of her life, without a smile and without a friend. She was a sex-slave who was forced into prostitution and held captive.
"I was 42 and I was like, let me just go on and die because my life in and out of jail is just not going to end," noted Clemmie Greenlee.
Starting at the young age of nearly five, Clemmie had little control over her life.
"At 8 years old I took my first drink because I was trying to get past all the men coming to my room."
With two alcoholic parents, she was left to fend for herself.
"The next thing I know at 12 was I was in the streets of prostitution because I had been snatched off street."
That’s when her life, a life in the underground world of human trafficking, began.
"I was put in this basement with other little girls already there. They were handcuffed and beat up. They immediately handcuffed me, shot me up with drugs, stripped me naked and started gang raping me."
She was arrested dozens of times and always bailed out by the people who held her captive, who she called her pimps.
"I was angry,” said Greenlee. “I was sad and I was angry. I didn't understand it, so that right there made me rebellious around anyone."
She was arrested for everything from prostitution, disorderly conduct, and even public drunkenness. It was a vicious cycle she simply could not escape. It was a cycle she wished someone would help her break.
"How am I making all these trips to juvenile and not to school? I was hoping someone would find out that I am not in school."
At thirteen she had her first child, then the life of prostitution continued to escalate.
"I am being sewn up and bandaged up and no one understands. People should have said, she's 12 and 13 why is she coming in here with her body parts, her sexual body parts being damaged like that? No one catches on and no one wants to ask that question. No one says we need to talk to her or we cant let her go home."
When she looks back at those many years being beaten, abused, raped, stabbed and pimped out, her memories are horrifying.
"You don’t feel nothing because of the drugs but when those drugs wear off you're in pure agony and pure pain you can’t do anything but cry and want to die."
Then after countless trips in and out of the system, Clemmie was too old and timed out to be used as a sex object anymore, she found herself on the street, eating out of garbage cans, for 10 years.
“The homeless really taught me how to survive."
Then at age 42 she finally heard about a special home that would help her turn her life around. After two years at the Magdalene House in Nashville, she graduated and moved to Louisiana to work at the Eden House.
“The Eden House is based on the same principals of the Magdalen House. It’s based on the thing that love is the strongest force for change in the universe," said Kara Van de Carr, the Executive Director and co-founder of Eden House.
Women who lived in the underground sex trade or only know life on the streets are able to come to the Eden House to escape and begin a new chapter in their lives. There are qualifications you need to get into the program and there is an interview process. Right now they have helped 12 women in almost two years.
“Some of the changes we're talking about are actually miraculous," noted Van de Carr.
Clemmie Greenlee told us, she’s ready to give back.
"Taking these girls in and these ladies in and I want to love on them and show them yeah you got dealt that life card but we're getting ready to show you a whole new hand of cards you can play with and it's for the better, to help you support you and guide you through this."
So now Clemmie, in her early fifties, is helping women just like her, get back on their feet and overcome the nightmares they've been living.
“In order to sustain recovery, women need to achieve economic independence," said Van de Carr.
The Eden House program provides not only support and a home for these women; they get medical help, financial assistance and therapy to help them succeed in the long run.
Clemmie is helping turn women’s lives around. She says life after human trafficking can be the life you've always imagined, plus more.
"The shame game is over with and I need to help the next person coming behind me because they don’t have a voice right now, I do."
The Hope House is another home for women 18 and older who have been rescued out of a life of human trafficking. That house is located right outside of Baton Rouge. For more information about human trafficking and the battle to eliminate it nationwide, click here.
There are numerous pieces of legislation heading to our law books that will help combact the problem at a political level.