Vednita Carter

Vednita Carter

What does survivor leadership means to you?

Survivor leadership means moving past what you experienced in life, not letting that life define who you are as you move forward. Being able to bring truth , light and hope to those who are still caught up in the life. Educating others to the truth of the impact of prostitution has on those who are trapped in it.

How long have you been in the movement against human trafficking?

I started working with survivors in 1989. I was hired as a Program Director for an organization called WHISPER which closed in October 1998. As a result, I founded Breaking Free in October 1998.

What are you greatest accomplishments in the movement against human trafficking?

My greatest accomplishments have been the honor and privilege of helping women and girls to escape the life by recognizing who they are and who they are not. Many women who have been in the life blame themselves for everything that has happened to them in the life.

What is one thing that carried you through the year from victim to survivor to now leader in the movement?

What carried me through these times was that I leaned on what was taught to me by my grandmother as a child. She was a very spiritual woman and strongly believed in God. Through all the mess and craziness, I would silently call on God to help me and one day he did. When I was set free, I made a promise to myself and God that moving forward my mission would be to set other captives free from prostitution. Little by little doors began to open. I went from Prison Ministry in my church to being hired as a Program Director for another organization that focused on prostitution to founding Breaking Free.

What are some challenges you have faced in the fight against human trafficking as a Survivor Leader?

Not being heard. When asked to present, people wanted to hear my story and not the solution to the problem. Also, getting paid can be challenging. I have learned that many times non survivors have been compensated while the expectation is that survivors will speak for free.

What advice do you have for younger Survivor Leader who are just beginning their journey?

Don’t let anyone hinder you from following your dream. You can do whatever you put your mind to. Remember prostitution is something that happened to you not who you are.

What advice to you have for anti-trafficking organizations as it relates to Survivor Leadership?

Listen to survivors. Remember we are the ones with the lived experience and many of us have degrees in various areas. We are much more than our stories.

In honor of the late, Norma Hotaling, what would you say to her survivor leadership or about her fight against human trafficking?

Norma is a shero and truly one of God’s greatest. Norma and I both began in the movement around the same time and we spoke often. It was Norma who started the Offenders Prostitution Program (John School). She brought awareness throughout the entire country that men had to be held accountable for buying women. Up to this point men were not looked upon as being a part of the problem. It was considered the woman’s fault. Norma had the boldness to say what many people would not say when it comes to men purchasing sex. Men who purchased women in prostitution in San Francisco were court ordered to attend John School where they would learn how their behaviors in purchasing women affects the community, the women they brought and themselves. 30% of the men who attend the class did not reoffend. Currently there are many cities that now offer the Offenders Prostitution Program throughout the US. Norma was one of the most passionate leaders in the movement. She was committed to ending the commercial sex industry. She was always coming up with unique social programs that has since been replicated nationwide.