True story of woman sex trafficked at 14 told in play at Concordia University Tuesday

18 July 2023

After being sex trafficked at 14 and managing to escape that life, Jennifer Gaines has devoted her life to helping women in the same situation.

Her true story will be performed as a play, “The Survivor Story Spotlight,” at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 18, at the E.M. Pearson Theater at Concordia University in St. Paul.

The play will be performed by several actresses portraying Gaines at different points in her life.

“It’s my story,” she said. “It’s how it happened, some of the things that happened to me, how it affected me, and how I got out,” she said in an interview Sunday.

The play also highlights the continuing need for more human trafficking prevention and victim-survivor services, she said.

“We want people to understand the vulnerabilities that put children at risk of trafficking, the barriers that prevent victims from getting out of the life, the hurdles that keep survivors trapped long-term, and the truth that we all have a hope and future that is worth protecting,” Gaines said. “For women who have gone through this, we want them to know that they are not alone. For every person — we are all priceless and our worth never changes no matter what happens to us. This is a true story of how I was trafficked right here in the Twin Cities.”

She partnered with C.A.S.T. — Citizens Against Sex Trafficking — to write the play, which had its debut performance last year.

The play will help Minnesotans understand how sex trafficking can happen in their own backyards, she said.

“I went to a good school. I had a good family. And it still happened to me,” Gaines said. “It’s all really good for people to understand how hard it is to get out (once someone has been sex trafficked). How many barriers you are facing and need to overcome. It’s not a choice. Nobody chooses this. There are some misconceptions that women choose this.”

People erroneously think that women who have been sex trafficked can “just get a job” to get out of the life, she said. “It’s not that easy. How can you get a job when you have no work skills, no education, no ID and are under the power and control of a trafficker?”

In addition, since addiction and trafficking often go hand-in-hand, that makes it even more difficult to leave, Gaines said. For help, the National Human Trafficking Hotline can be reached at 888-373-7888.

Gaines is founder and director of JCS Affective Sober Living. Her homes are unique, she said, because they are sober homes for women who have been sexually exploited. Before opening them, Gaines worked for Breaking Free, a survivor-led nonprofit that works with women who have been involved in prostitution or victims of sex trafficking.

To see the play

Tickets are $10 for the play on Tuesday, July 18, and can be purchased at

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