Survivors Celebrate Graduation from 'Life-Saving' Human Trafficking Court
By Csaba Sukosd | September 20, 2019
No matter where you look around or inside the Ohio Statehouse, you're surrounded by history, and those who shaped it. Recently, in the building's atrium, a group of women shared tales from the darkest years of their lives about their escape from abuse and human trafficking to enlighten and inspire hundreds of other people.
Nine women celebrated their graduation from Changing Actions that Change Habits (CATCH) Court. Started in 2009, the Franklin County Municipal Court specialized docket was the state's first human trafficking court.
"CATCH Court saved my life. I didn't have a light until they shined theirs on me so I could find mine," said Melissa Callaway, who graduated after her second attempt in the program.
The two-year track involves intensive court supervision, addiction treatment, and trauma-focused therapy. Those who graduate - 67 people to date - get a clean slate, with the related charges erased from their record.
Often separated from their families and isolated from society become of their addictions, members of the program's ninth graduating class were once again with their loved ones. Among them were mothers, daughters, and sisters expressing their gratitude to Judge Paul Herbert and his staff for their patience, care, and compassion.
"They've given me the greatest gift they could ever have given me in my life. They have given me my sister back, and I will be forever grateful to CATCH Court," said Hollie Daniels, whose sister LaRose successfully completed the program.
For a group of women who struggled to trust court staff and treatment teams with their emotions and vulnerabilities when they started in the specialized docket, the survivors are now a source of promise and happiness for those they've impacted.
One such example is Barb Davis. Homeless for 37 years, much of that time was mired under the manipulation of abusers and substance use, which desensitized her despair.
"I want you to know that I remember a time that we were too busy trying to numb out our pain and trauma to ever believe there was something better waiting on us," Davis said. "To be part of such an amazing circle of strong and resilient women is an honor for me."
As the women transition to the next chapter of their lives, they're pushing CATCH Court participants and others being exploited toward their own freedom.
"Don't ever give up and don't ever discourage yourself, because great things happen here," said graduate Tierramarie Lewis.