While a child in Detroit, EleSondra DeRomano’s father prostituted her mother through an organized network of gang-controlled prostitution, before his imprisonment for murder. Placed in foster care at age four, Ms. DeRomano experienced years of physical and sexual abuse, and when returned to her mother, continued to endure the same abuse at the hands of her mother’s boyfriend. By age 11, she had graduated to a world of gangs, drugs, street violence, and was herself forced into prostitution, and by age 13, was herself sentenced to prison. Following her release, crack addiction, and more years being trafficked for sex, Ms. DeRomano found a new life in her mid-twenties, staying clean and helping other at-risk inner-city youth. In 2011, she founded STARS, a survivor-based organization dedicated to supporting and empowering young women who have experienced or are at high risk of sex trafficking.
“I don’t want sympathy for what I went through. I want people to have sympathy for the girls still being trafficked.”