New hope for sex trafficking survivors

ST. LOUIS - Sex trafficking survivors in Missouri couldn't get food stamps if they had drug felonies. The law in Missouri put a lifetime food stamp ban only on drug offenders, not sex offenders or any other violent criminals.

It's a law Christine McDonald lived with ever since she escaped the streets. She was sold for sex, beaten, abused, raped and reduced to just a shell by the johns who bought her from her pimp. She had a thousand dollar a day crack habit to get through the brutality of 17 years of her life.

She was busted three times for possessing drugs. Each time, it was a felony. She had six felonies for prostitution. Missouri is one of the few states that makes prostitution a felony. She said the day came when even the pimps didn't want her.

"I was digging in trash cans and existing out there," she said.

She left the streets, she got clean. She started a new life, in the brutal real world. She went blind after she got pregnant.

"I had no job, I couldn't get food stamps, and I had a newborn baby," said McDonald.

She was a victim again, this time of the law that bans drug felons from getting food stamps for life.

"I spent hours and hours of my life using public transportation and getting to food pantries to get a couple of sacks of food," she said.

She knows trafficking victims who went back on the street because they couldn't get basics like food. She knew she needed to change the law. She told her story to every single lawmaker for six years.

"It has changed their hearts" she said.

And lawmakers changed their minds about the lifetime food bank this week. They overwhelmingly voted for the bill in both the House and the Senate.

"If we feed the human being, we starve the addiction,' said McDonald.

The only thing standing between trafficking victims and one of the basics of life is the governor's signature.


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