She was 16 years old, alone on the streets of Atlanta and it was starting to rain.
Sade De’Angela had made up her mind that it was time for her to go back home. She was tired of being a runaway and the fast life that came with it—the non-stop partying, the drugs, the uncertainty.
As the rain picked up, a good Samaritan pulled up alongside the young teen and offered her a ride to the train station. Cold and alone, Sade obliged. She opened the door, got in and her life changed forever.
Read more after the jump.
Human trafficking is modern-day slavery and may involve, force, fraud or coercion in exchange for labor or commercial sex acts.
The National Human Trafficking Hotline defines human trafficking as “a crime involving the exploitation of someone for the purposes of compelled labor or a commercial sex act through the use of force, fraud, or coercion.”
There are over 20 million victims worldwide in the $32 billion-a-year global human trafficking industry, according to the U.S. State Department.
On average, 100 juvenile girls like Sade are exploited each night in Georgia. Further, approximately 374 girls are commercially sexually exploited monthly in Georgia, according to statistics compiled by the Center for Public Policy Studies.
Unlike Sade, many girls are quickly moved out of the state or even out of the country, where they get disconnected from family and loved ones.
In fact, in Sade’s case, the fervent prayers of her mother and a persistence in locating her daughter helped in rescuing Sade just before she was going to be sold to a trafficker in upstate New York.
“I was in and out of juvie, starting around the age of 14,” Sade admitted. “I was sent to a group home that was in earshot of lots of partying and loud music.
“Me [sic] and a couple girls in the group home decided that we were going to run away,” she continued. “And that’s exactly what we did.”
But the luster of partying had long worn off. Sade decided that it was time to go back home.
“I was walking down the street and this guy pulled up in a really nice car,” she explained. “He rolled down his window and he asked, ‘Do you need a ride?’
“I got into the car with him thinking that everything was okay,” she continued.
Two minutes into the ride, her abductor pulled out a gun. He placed the gun on the console between them and handed Sade a phone to call her mother.
“He told me to call my mother and let her know that I wasn’t coming back home,” Sade said. “I called her and left a phone message. I said, “I was going to be okay and not to look for me,” but in a tone that I hoped she would pick up on that I was in serious trouble.”
For nearly six months, Sade didn’t see or hear from her mother again. She was subjected to harassment and abuse. She was also forced to act as a recruiter for other girls into the trafficking ring she’d been sold into. It was a damaging process that she is still recovering from.
“I never thought in a million years that I would be pulled into a cause that I have to live out,” explained Sade’s mother, Angela. “The experience of having my daughter kidnapped forced me to make a conscious decision that I had to act at full capacity in order find my daughter.
“The only way I was able to do that was through the power of prayer,” she added. “I prayed like no man’s business. I fasted and I prayed.”
While Angela was still dedicated to her roles as wife to Sade’s stepfather and mother to Sade’s younger siblings, she had to carve out time to go searching for her daughter.
That time included joining a citizen’s police force and even going undercover as a sex worker with other police in hopes of finding information that would lead Sade back to her.
After several weeks, Angela had started to become defeated. The double lives without having anyone to share what she was doing for her undercover work had started to take a toll on her and she became worried that she may have lost her daughter.
“We would go in day in and day out. I would ride in the back of a jump-out van,” Angela said. “I have dressed undercover and walked Stewart Avenue as a prostitute with other undercover police officers. I beat the street.
“We worked that case for months … we didn’t get anywhere,” she added. “I ended falling into depression. I fought a lot of spiritual battles.”
But then, a moment of clarity shocked her back into focus. She’d been watching a T.D. Jakes special when the Dallas-based megachurch pastor looked into the screen and declared that a mother who was looking for her daughter would be reunited by Christmas.
“I was like, ‘God is talking,” Angela said, finding herself brought to the edge of her seat. “Something came over me. I jumped off the couch and I yelled, ‘If you be my God, what you can do by Christmas, you can do today!’
“I challenged God. I had the faith that he would deliver today,” she continued.
At that moment, she had an epiphany. She remembered the last phone call she received from Sade.
Angela tore through her house in search of the number, until she found it. The number was right where God told it would be.
She dialed the number, the phone rang and then, when the call connected, the voices she heard on the other end were joyful and speaking in tongues.
It turned out that another girl who had been trafficked had been rescued and had her faith transferred after leaving the game. Yet, the young lady, “Sparkle,” kept in touch with Sade’s trafficker and knew that Sade was only days away from being sold away to New York.
Sparkle fully cooperated with Angela and authorities. Together, all were able to thwart the trafficker’s plans, rescue Sade and reunite the teen with her mother and family.
Genise Shelton, a cast member of Bravo’s “Married to Medicine” founded her own non-profit “Our Children’s Keeper” in 2017 to help in the rescue, reuniting and, sometimes, burial efforts, for young women and men affected by the human trafficking industry.
“I formed Our Children’s Keeper early last year because I was so disheartened that so many of our black and brown children can go missing in this world and be treated as an afterthought,” Shelton explained. “As a mother of six beautiful kids, there was no way I could just sit back and be silent about this issue.”
“I wanted to use my platform that I was blessed with — ‘Married to Medicine’ — to raise awareness to this horrific situation,” she added. “We have to do our part.”
Shelton’s foundation works to prevent the sexual exploitation of youth and helps current victims find confidence, strength, and stability beyond the limitations of their current lifestyle.
A host of local and national celebrities have supported Shelton’s vision through serving as speakers, panelists and providing hands-on support helping to build a collective social media influence garnering over three million impressions for the OCK annual Back-to-School Outreach.
Sade’s road to recovery has not been easy. But she said she finds it therapeutic to share her stories with others and serve as an advocate for those who are at-risk of being abducted or exploited like she was.