INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- Rebuilding lives after human trafficking is the mission of one Indianapolis business.
The vision is to get survivors back in the workforce while giving them back their freedom.
The Lemondime was created six years ago by owner Kellie Nowacki, who never thought her jewelry would be helping survivors of human trafficking.
“When we think of trafficking we think about it being in other countries. We hear it’s in the United States, but we don’t really understand how deeply it affects our own city,” said Nowacki.
For her, it all started with a life-changing trip to Cambodia.
“I was holding the hand of a little girl there that was seven and she had been bought and traded for sex. I just thought, all I’m doing is making inspirational jewelry, and it seemed like it was not enough.”
After that interaction, the mission for The Lemondime changed. No longer about simply creating inspirational jewelry, her business became a safe place for women at risk or those who have survived human trafficking.
“They can learn skills, learn things that they can use and go out on their own and maybe they want to stay in the business and do things but maybe they want to learn photography and they get a chance to learn photography through my business,” she said.
Although this employee asked to remain anonymous, her story is one that needs to be told.
“I was abducted from a school here in Indiana when I was 15. I’m not from around here, I’m not even from this state,” she said. “I was trafficked by a professional therapist for seven years.”
“I really believed at some point it was going to stop and I think that’s where a lot of the survivors give up,” she said, “A lot of things were numb and horrifying. It’s like waking up every morning to the same nightmare that doesn’t seem to ever stop.”
She never gave up. This survivor says there are victims ages 8 to 50 years old being trafficked in Indianapolis. Some reached out to Nowacki, searching for an opportunity. That’s why she’s now expanding her business.
“Several girls on their own contact me and just say, 'Hey, I’ve lived this life. I have gotten out. I want work, I need work,'” said Nowacki, “'I can’t keep a job because of my trauma or because of my inability to have good transportation' and things like that.”
Giving survivors a chance and proving there’s a story behind every piece of jewelry.
“It’s a much more complex problem the more that I learn about it,” said Nowacki, “I say no to so much work and I can’t do it all on my own. I just thought, well, these women need work that they can actually want to be proud of.”
“For the first time in my life I’m not worried about safety," the survivor told us. "I’m not afraid of running into one of the men that has done something to me. I don’t have to worry about anything here at Kellie’s except for getting better.”
Click here to visit The Lemondime’s Facebook page to see how they plan to expand their business.
Human trafficking is the fastest-growing and second-largest criminal industry in the world, generating roughly $150 billion worldwide.
“We don’t walk around wearing it, we don’t walk around crying, I mean, people truly don’t see us," the survivor said. "It’s an invisible industry here and it’s a nightmare and I want it to stop.”