HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — A Harrisburg nonprofit is trying to educate the community about human trafficking and also give victims a safe place to go.
Justice Maddox walks the streets of Central Pennsylvania trying to reach at-risk youth, who she said are most likely to be victims of human trafficking.
“They call me the Nightwalker because I’m out at 11, 12, 1 o’clock at night,” Maddox said.
Maddox herself is a survivor of domestic violence and sexual abuse. In 2018, she started her nonprofit Justice House of Hope.
“I’ve been there, and I understand, and I want to help and give them hope,” she said. “Be the voice for those children that have no voice or that are afraid.”
She started the nonprofit to make sure victims of human trafficking have the resources they need.
“We don’t push or force them, but we just give them the information, let them know that we’re here,” Maddox said.
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Maddox helps people like 28-year-old Anastasia, identified in this story only by her first name to protect her privacy. Anastasia aged out of foster care at 18 with nothing.
“I had no phone, I had no money, I didn’t even have citizenship,” Anastasia said.
“I met my trafficker at a Wawa,” she said, and at first he helped her, giving her shelter, food, and money. However, he soon said she owed him, and that’s when it started.
“By the time it got scary and by the time it got violent, I was already trapped, I was too deep in,” Anastasia said.
For six months, Anastasia was trafficked. One night, she said her trafficker beat her up badly.
“He threw me into a coffee table, and I had blood all over my forehead,” she said.
After that incident, Anastasia finally ran.
“I broke my phone, I deleted all social media, I just disappeared,” she said. She said she dropped off the grid so completely that people thought she died.
It took years, but Anastasia got back on her feet, going back to school and getting a job and her citizenship. Eventually, she helped police build a case against her trafficker, who had been arrested on drug charges and testified at his trial.
However, Anastasia said did all of this alone, struggling with depression on the way. She said a program like Justice House of Hope would have provided her with some needed support.
“It would have given me a light at the end of the tunnel. I didn’t see a light for a long time,” she said.
Now she helps Maddox, donating supplies and resources. Right now, Maddox helps place victims in foster care, but her goal is to have her own safe house, giving kids a “safe haven that they would need.”
Maddox said her mission also includes raising awareness.
“It’s right here, right now, in our own backyard,” she said. “I want them to know who they can call, I want them to know what to look for.”
Both Maddox and Anastasia said they want people to be alert for signs of trafficking because knowing the signs can help save lives.
“If I could have been smarter, more vigilant, more aware of what trafficking was, I could have saved myself,” Anastasia said.
Learn more about Justice House of Hope and signs of trafficking here.