Lynn Caffery's journey to where she is today is nothing short of amazing. She graduated with a master's degree and is close to finishing renovations on a house in Huntsville. In the home, Caffery will provide a place of healing for people who escaped horrific abuse, something Caffery survived.
"They kept me handcuffed to the motorcycle, handcuffed to the bed. They had me in the clubs working, and I was underage. They had enforcers at the door, so I couldn't run. If I ran, I was fearful they'll kill me," said Caffery.
As a pre-teen, Caffery ran away from home to escape abuse, only to be taken in by a biker gang that injected her with drugs and sold her for sex.
"By that time, I was 13, doing a quarter ounce of meth and an ounce of heroin a day. Not counting the alcohol, or the pills, and I ended up getting away from them further down the line," said Caffery.
In the middle of unthinkable hardship, police arrested Caffery on drug crimes. She spent 12 years in prison. However, that's where she found healing through counseling and drug rehabilitation programs. As director of the Human Trafficking Task Force, Pat McCay explained sex trafficking is a big problem in our area.
"Parents trying to sell their children, they are selling their kids for sex. The money feeds the drug trade because most of these people who are in this situation, in human trafficking, it's a money thing, I want to buy drugs or I want something better in life, mostly drugs is what they're after," said McCay.
McCay says this area has become the hub or as she described it, a wagon wheel for sex trafficking, with Memphis to the west, Birmingham to the south, Atlanta to the east, Nashville to the north and Chattanooga and Knoxville to the northeast.
"We have I-65 coming in and out of our state. It comes in from Gary, Indiana, which is the northern part of our country, all the way down to Mobile. Then you have I-20, which has been identified in the U.S. as the super highway for human trafficking. It goes right through our state. We have 85 coming in from Atlanta. Atlanta has long been a huge problem for human trafficking. Then I-22, which is brand new coming in from Birmingham coming in directly to Memphis," said McCay.
Caffery has now dedicated her life to saving others. As the executive director of Safe Harbor Youth INC., she helps sex trafficking victims who have escaped captivity to start a new life.
"We work with therapy, trauma therapy, and I have a licensed social worker. She helps them with groups and individual counseling. We network a lot in the community, so they can get a further education, GED or high school diploma. They end up going to college or trade school and end up getting a degree," said Caffery.
When this house is completed, she'll have room for 20 people. Her facility is already reserved at capacity. Caffery says at 24 to 48 hours of being homeless, people are prime targets for sex trafficking. She says the average lifespan of someone, once they are trafficked, is seven years.