In her own words, Dr. Marlene Carson is a “SurThrivalist.” At age 15, Marlene became one of the tens of thousands of girls who are sexually exploited. She says she survived sex-trafficking and its profoundly deadening effects on her young life, because she gave herself over to God through her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Marlene’s faith – in God, in herself and in those who truly love her. She prayed until God breathed new life into her, giving her the strength to rise from the “coffin of bondage” and “[dig] deep for the treasures within [herself].”
Marlene dug deep enough to unearth “gold” from her personal treasure chest, and she teaches others to do the same. She is dedicated to serving and inspiring others who are recovering from addiction, exploitation and trauma. She encourages them to dig deep within themselves to revive their own dead dreams, visions and purpose. She finds an opening where she sees that her life overlaps with theirs. “I recognize the abused and neglected…it’s like looking in a mirror from my own younger days,” she says. By sharing her “secrets” with others, she hopes it will help them unlock what is holding them back from finding who they want to be.
Marlene’s misery became her ministry. She obtained her doctorate degree in theology and is passionate about sharing the Gospel. As a way to employ and to inspire (and mentor) both men and women to pursue their dreams and destinies, she has opened restaurants including, Bojhetto’s Soul Food Restaurant in north Columbus and It’s a Wrap, Soups, Salads, and More in the old train depo in Delaware, Ohio. Marlene points out the significance of her restaurant being located at the old train depo: “Where trains switched tracks is now a place where the exploited work together to “switch the tracks of their lives” from one taking them to nowhere to a new track leading to their best lives.”
And, Marlene has done all this while loving and caring for her grandchildren.
Also, over the past 30 years, Marlene has started several businesses and non-profits, including Rahab’s Hideaway, a residential treatment facility for women victims of human trafficking. Marlene is Founder and CEO of the anti-trafficking network, The Switch, where she has created a line of unconventional greeting cards, “Cards for a Cause,” that encourages those who are celebrating sobriety.
Marlene has authored and published several books, including, 12 Steps to Transform the Exploited Soul, a series that includes an edition for the survivor and an edition for volunteers who work with survivors. Her upcoming book, SurThrology, set to be released October 2019, is about the art and science of how to move from surviving to thriving. And, per usual, Marlene already is deep into writing her next book Relationship Equity, where she eloquently describes how people in whom you believe will invest in you.
Yes, “Major League Marlene,” coined by her friends, has boundless energy. She educates, empowers, and inspires others to dig deep within themselves to mine for their own golden strength to make their dreams- no matter how big - become reality.
Marlene believes that social enterprise is a way to sustain social justice causes. Now that she has learned to delegate, she is freed-up to focus on her new passion of showing others how to put their social causes to work for profit (and for good), simply by relying on their greatest resource of all – their relationships with others who believe in them and their causes.
After all the accolades and accomplishments, the featured magazine articles, and the television appearances, what Marlene cherishes most is continuing to share herself -her time, the most valuable of all treasures – with someone who most desperately needs life-saving hope. In fact, as I interviewed Marlene, there was a woman with her, who, overhearing our conversation, requested to speak to me directly. Through her choked-back tears, she told me how Marlene had shared Jesus Christ with her, prayed for her and took her shopping to buy decent clothes and make-up. Marlene poured herself into this survivor, as she pours her time, talent and treasures into everything she sets out to do.
In Central Ohio, there are over 1100 missing and exploited children. “Some may be runaways, some may have been taken, but all are vulnerable to exploitation. It is imperative that we, as a community, come together to help to prevent and abolish human trafficking and keep our children safe,” says Marlene. She implores us to watch for some of the warning signs of human-trafficking such as branding tattoos and sexualized behavior, as well as having a withdrawn, distressed and distracted personality; being less appropriately dressed than in the past; bragging about making or having lots of money; possessing more than one cell phone; and unexplained absences from school.
Marlene expounded that some time ago, she had searched, to no avail, for a young woman after a pastor in Macon GA, had described how an exploited, young woman had been badly burned and her fingertips cut off by her pimp. Fast forward two years: toward the closing of a speaking engagement, a young woman in the audience posed a question to Marlene, which led Marlene to tell her story about her search for this girl. By the overwhelming ways of God, it turned out that “the girl” was seated right beside the young woman who had provoked the story. Marlene’s search had come full circle when the young woman announced, “I am that girl, and I came here to meet you.” Yet another treasure from Marlene’s treasure trove of gold.
By: Lorie McCaughan (also a Believer in and Follower of Jesus Christ)
Formerly a practicing nurse, Attorney McCaughan joined the legal clinic staff at Capital University Law School in 1998. In addition to representing indigent clients, Ms. McCaughan supervises students enrolled in Capital's General Litigation Clinic and the Civil Protection Unit of the Family Advocacy Clinic. She is also a court-approved mediator for Franklin County. Ms. McCaughan is a member of the American Bar Association, Ohio State Bar Association and the Columbus Bar Association. She serves on the Delivery of Legal Services Committee of the Columbus Bar Association and participates in the CBA's Homeless Project.