Sr. Gladys Leigh still thinks about two women she wrote to in prison in 2015.
The survivors of sex trafficking had been accepted into Magdalene St. Louis, a program that helps women live free from abuse, addiction and prostitution. They served 12 months in prison for prostitution, and before their release, Leigh, a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet-St. Louis Province and a volunteer with Magdalene, wrote them encouraging letters. They responded, seeking assurance that they would really be living in a safe, loving place. They did not believe it was possible, Leigh said.
" 'Can it be true?' they asked me," said Leigh, 70. "I said, 'Yes, yes.' I had to convince them. That really touched my heart. It showed me what they had lived through."
The two women Leigh spoke of are among hundreds of people trafficked yearly in the United States. According to a 2012 report by the Urban Institute and Northeastern University, sex trafficking accounted for 85 percent of trafficking cases identified by law enforcement.