Lori Wright said she was 13 years old when she snuck out the window of a boarding school and started running through the cornfields of Indiana. When she finally saw a sign for a truck stop, she said, she had hope. Someone could give her a ride to her father's home in Nashville, Tennessee, she thought.
She said she didn't know then that the truck driver who gave her a ride would be the first of many men who would use her and pass her around for sex. By 16, Wright was married. By 17, she said, her husband had sold her to a pimp for drugs. For 25 years, Wright said, she was trafficked for sex. She said she lost count of how many times she was raped and beaten. "I felt so worthless," she said Friday. "I didn't know how to live or how to love or take care of myself."
Wright, now 46, said she knows there are women in the Omaha area with stories like hers. That's why she's here from Nashville, sharing her story and advocating for a program called Magdalene.
The residential program, started in 1997 by the Rev. Becca Stevens, an Episcopal priest in Nashville, offers housing, medical care, therapy and job training for two years at no cost to the women.  Omaha's Trinity Episcopal Cathedral's Friends of Tamar program hopes to bring the model here, creating the 31st Magdalene house in the country.
"We already have the model and the community support," said Teresa Houser, founder of the Friends of Tamar, which is aimed at supporting survivors of sexual violence. "Now, we just need to keep building upon that to create a community to support these women."
In the last year, more than 2,200 people were sexually exploited for money in the Omaha area on a classified advertising website that runs adult ads, Anna Brewer said, citing data from Creighton University's Human Trafficking Initiative. Brewer is a training consultant with the Women's Fund of Omaha and a former FBI agent who investigated trafficking cases. "That's just one website," Brewer said. "Do we have 2,200 beds in the area for trafficking victims? No. That's why we need places like Magdalene."
Though the average Magdalene house can accommodate only about six to eight women at a time, Brewer said it's a crucial service. Trafficking survivors need services and peer support that can't be provided by most shelters, Brewer said.
Wright agreed. "What we go through runs deep, way deeper than someone who hasn't gone through it might realize," she said. She now works in the Magdalene house in Nashville, helping other women like her. "Survivors need these places, but the community needs to understand these stories, too," Wright said. "I can say this because I've been there - this is about saving lives."