KALISPELL - There may be no crime more heinous than sex trafficking -- or any form of sexual abuse. And those who investigate these crimes say it's the recovery that can be the most difficult for victims.
MTN News spoke with one survivor who is turning her traumatic experiences into positive ones for other victims.
“At least about four or five people that was assaulting me until the age of 19, " said Grace Manchala who was born and raised in southern India to a protective, religious family.
At the young age of 6, she began to be sexually abused multiple times by family and friends. Her parents had no idea, and she wouldn’t tell them because in her culture, she was raised to not talk about sex.
“The moment we talk about sex from a six-year-old mouth it doesn’t look, that is not natural, right? And there was a lot of shame and guilt and because of the culture that I grew up in we don’t talk about things like that," said Manchala who runs Glory for Ashes.
Manchala later met a man who she says showed her compassion, love and a way to leave her dark past behind -- at least, that’s what she thought.
But he began trafficking girls and boys in their home, even right in front of her. but Manchala says she became numb to her surroundings until one day she knew she had to leave.
“He was at a point of wanting me to sell my womb and my body where he would come and ask me again and again and at that time I know, okay, you know, it’s not safe anymore with him," Manchala recalled.
She left broken -- both spiritually and mentally. Her parents sent her to a counselor where she says she found her identity again and began working to help others with similar struggles.
Manchala came to the United States in 2008 with the same mission -- to create a safer place for young girls and boys in the community and beyond. She says it is important to find these criminals and save these children, but it is also crucial to restore their faith in who they are as people.
“So, increasing the value of a person, bringing awareness to that person and showing them that what their identity is, is very important," Manchala told MTN News.
Manchala played a huge role in drafting legislative bills related to sex trafficking, ultimately raising Montana’s grade from sexual trafficking prevention from a “D” to an “A” rating.
Manchala says there is still a lot of work to be done as she continues to fight for the abolition of human trafficking in Montana and around the world but is proud of the work they’ve done so far.
Manchala will hold a training seminar at Flathead High School from 5:30 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. on Monday Jan. 22.\