KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- According to the National Human Trafficking hotline, Missouri ranks 16th in the country for the number of human trafficking cases reported.
A study by UMKC revealed there is an estimated 3,541 adult women sexually exploited in Kansas City.
One local woman is writing about her experience and another local group is stepping up to help.
“Twenty-one years I was a victim of human trafficking. Seventeen years of that journey was in Kansas City, Missouri along in the Northeast Corridor along Independence Avenue," said Christine McDonald.
McDonald says she likes to call herself a thriver. She was forced into sex trafficking at 15 years old, and couldn’t get out for another 21 years.
During that time, she also battled homelessness and addiction. While McDonald struggled with a lot, she says one of the hardest battles was finding a job.
“When I first got out, I had been arrested 103 times. I had been to prison seven, and I had nine felony convictions. Missouri is one of five states that makes prostitution a felony. Nobody wanted to hire me, and I was illiterate," said McDonald.
She says it took years for her to get back fully on her feet. She went back to school and put all her energy into bettering her self.
Now she's an author of two books who uses her story as a message to help.
“We all have hopes and dreams. I was never able to dream. That kind of thing wasn’t options for people like us. Today I have dreams and I want other people to be able to dream," said McDonald.
Just like McDonald, many activists are fighting the industry in different ways, including local non-profit, Veronica's Voice.
The organization that helps women recover is introducing a new venture, using handmade bath salts, lotions, essential oils and other crafted materials as a way for many women to start over after leaving a life on the streets.
“Our motto is heal, empower and employ. So the goal is to employ these women. They live in our program for two years rent free and help with every aspect of this line. We are hoping to hire them once they graduate," said founder and president of Veronica’s Voice, Kristy Childs.
The handmade products are currently being sold at Indian Heights United Methodist Church in Overland Park.
This is part of Veronica's Voice two-day "Butterfly Boutique" fundraiser.
“It helps them one, with giving them job skills. It can build a resume for them. To show that they are on time, participated as a team. Because all the women will want to be employed by this social enterprise, so we want to empower them to be able to do that," said Childs.
The organization is looking for a permanent location to sell supplies. They will eventually be available at their online store
Together, but in different ways, these women are working to change not only their lives, but the lives of other women. McDonald's books can be found here.