New York — Sheila Simpkins McClain says she is more than her story.
But at a July 13 "side event" at the United Nations' High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, McClain held an audience in rapt attention as she told that story — her experiences of being a trafficked person.
Now 47 and director of survivor services for the anti-trafficking organization End Slavery Tennessee, McClain recalled being sexually abused starting at age 6, crossing the United States as a teenager, being "pimped" by a man in San Francisco, then returning to Tennessee and experiencing "life on the street."
"It was all on the street," McClain said of her life as a prostitute — there was no internet then. Selling her body, being beaten by men who acted as pimps, going in and out of jails: There is no single reason for these experiences, she said. Coming from a family that lived in poverty, having a mother who was likely a drug addict, and not having formal education all contributed, McClain said.
McClain's experiences are part of a larger narrative: A growing movement is recognizing the perils of human trafficking and its wide reach throughout the world, and Catholic sisters are among those who have robustly and passionately embraced this work.