(Digital Editor's Note: This article appeared first in the May 2023 edition of the print version of The Stand.)
“Little did I know, that instance would open doors I couldn’t shut,” Ashlea Jones told The Stand.
That life-changing instance happened when Jones was only 7 years old. While spending the night with a friend, she was sexually molested while taking a bath. As years passed, she stayed quiet, not telling anyone how she had been violated.
Her silence led to unhealed trauma and deeper issues later in life. By the time she reached her early teenage years, her virginity had been stolen. Unfortunately, those horrific events couldn’t compare to what happened to 17-year-old Jones at a neighborhood party.
“I was gang raped that night,” Jones explained. “And that caused me to run away from home.”
When her 18th birthday arrived, Jones had spent a year living in homeless shelters and serving time in jail for her first felony. But after her release, things seemed to be turning a corner as she met a man she deeply loved. Months later, she discovered she was pregnant and was filled with joy.
However, her emotions quickly changed when she found herself and her boyfriend panhandling in frigid temperatures. At 20 weeks pregnant, he sold her body for the first time to make ends meet.
Then, he sold her in strip clubs, spas, online, and on the streets. The crushing weight of the lifestyle led her to become addicted to drugs such as methamphetamines. Consequently, the drug usage resulted in her losing custody of her son and two more children later in life.
Thankfully, nine-and-a-half long years later, Jones broke free from his grasp.
At age 28, Jones still struggled with trauma. For relief, she turned to drugs again and met her second trafficker. In exchange for drugs, he sold her for sex. One night after not making the required nightly dollar amount, he pistol-whipped, beat, and threatened Jones’ life. She was inconsolable. But to her surprise, a sudden wave of unknown peace swept over her.
“It was the first time I felt the real presence of God,” Jones said.
Jones’ trafficker was soon arrested, and she saw it as an opportunity to leave for good. She quickly contacted a woman who ministered to women working in the sex industry. With her help, Jones purchased a bus ticket.
“At that moment, I remember putting my full faith in God,” Jones continued. “I knew if it was going to happen, He was going to make a way.”
But while she waited at the bus station, the trafficker found her. He had posted bail and was determined to put Jones back to work. Reluctantly, she followed him, secretly planning her escape. When he left her alone in the hotel room, she ran for help. That night she was finally able to flee from her trafficker.
After being rescued, Jones moved into a human trafficking safe house at Mercy Gate Ministries (MGM). MGM provided Jones with restoration and healing, and helped her uncover the true love of Jesus Christ.
Today, she happily works at a department store, has a fully furnished one-bedroom apartment, and owns a paid-off car – things she never imagined she would accomplish. Thanks to God’s goodness, she celebrates a restored relationship with her mom and three children. In her spare time, Jones also ministers to other trafficking survivors at MGM.
“Mercy Gate is the best thing to ever happen to me,” Jones exclaimed. “I would not be who I am today without them.”