WINNIPEG — Human trafficking survivor Victoria Morrison wants people to know it can happen to anyone.
“That’s something I like to emphasize in my talks is that it really does happen in your own backyard, all over the country, all over the world,” she told CTV News at a Salvation Army event Wednesday in Winnipeg, the city she was once trafficked to, where she feared for her life.
Morrison met her trafficker through mutual friends. She said at the time she was involved in illegal activities and addiction, and began a romantic relationship with the person who would become her trafficker. The relationship quickly turned abusive, landing Morrison in the hospital.
It was there she realized she needed to get away, but as she tried to distance herself, her then-boyfriend began to hold on even tighter.
“That’s when he kidnapped me and decided to take me out to Winnipeg,” she said.
While in Winnipeg, Morrison was forced into the sex trade. She said she feared her trafficker would beat her to death.
“At that point I thought, any day he’s going to beat me to death, you know, I’m going to die here,” Morrison said.
“There were points where I wanted to end my own life, I just wanted to give up. But then, there were points where I was like — you got to keep going. And luckily I did keep going, because now I’m here today, able to tell my story.”
FINDING HELP IN AN UNEXPECTED PLACE
Ultimately it was a man that victimized Morrison who also helped her escape.
She said one day, after her trafficker beat her so badly she was “marked from head to toe,” he told her he wanted cigarettes. Morrison reached out to a man who had victimized her to get the cigarettes, because he had showed her some compassion and she trusted him.
“As I went out the door and into the man’s car, I just had this feeling come over, like I have to save my life. This may be my only out,” she said.
“So I asked the man to drive me to the police station, and he said, ‘Yes.’”
Once at the police station Morrison said she was still terrified, but she went up to the officer at the desk, asked to speak with him privately and shared her situation.
“I think when I was being transported to the hospital, I started to feel like I might be okay.”
GETTING THE HELP TO START OVER
Morrison said one of the first agencies to help her out, other than the police, was the Salvation Army. With nothing but the clothes on her back, the organization gave her the tools to begin her new life.
“They gave me a duffle bag full of makeup, hair product, clothes and that was basically all the belongings I had,” she said.
“I was 26 years old and I was starting over and they gave me that first glimpse of hope.”
The Salvation Army also helped Morrison get back home to Ontario.
WHY SHE STAYED
Morrison said a lot of traffickers manipulate their victims into staying, but in her situation she was “frozen by fear.”
Morrison worried her trafficker would kill her or hurt her family.
“I felt like I didn’t want to make any move that might risk my life because my trafficker had inflicted so much violence on me, and that’s basically what kept me there was the threats, the violence, the threats against my family. You know, I thought I need to preserve my family’s life. That’s basically what kept me in my situation for so long.”
CTV News previously reported that Morrison suffered beatings, electric shocks and was locked in a freezer.
Her trafficker is now behind bars.
A NEW BEGINNING
It’s been 15 months since Morrison’s escape and she can’t believe how amazing her life is.
She said she’s stayed sober, gotten a job, leads a human trafficking support group and does talks to tell her story.
“I’m just spreading the awareness,” she said.
“I just cannot believe how my life has turned around. I think it’s due to the decision I made to save my own life, but it’s also all these agencies that are there.
“That’s what I want people to know. There are so many resources and so many people that want to help.”
– With files from Maralee Caruso and CTV News Windsor.