Barbara Freeman-Today I am free, and I refuse to lose me
Shattered, but I’m not broken. Wounded, but time will heal.” These are spirit-filled lyrics that continuously play in Barbara Freeman’s heart. A native from Alexander city, Alabama, Barbara and her family settled on he northside of Columbus when she was 11 years old.
Just like most young ladies, she fantasized of having a prince charming and an array of popular friends that loved and adored her. But that’s not the only picture she saw the countless days she spent gazing on the front porch of her new home.
The “normal life she daydreamed of also included living in a home without so much pain and no longer questioning God’s plan for allowing her to be exposed to the constant abuse from her stepfather.
It was h er mother’s prayers through battered eyes that provided Barbara a sense of refugee and hope. So, when an older man showed interest in Barbara, she took the advice of h er mother who took no time in encouraging her to date him.
This older man showered her with lavish gifts and flaunted her and her friends around town in style, just like her in fantasies. “He was in a royal blue beautiful car and flakes in it, white walls with a bird on the back, “Barbara remembers.
He treated her like a young princess, wooed her with charm, and sparked her curiosity because he didn’t attempt to pursue her sexually. He provided the finest marijuana that he prepared for her to smoke at her leisure. It appeared that her life had finally turned around.
There was something different about her price charming that kept her on edge waiting until the time she could see him again. But hi s presence wasn’t the only thing she missed when he’d take off in his blue car until next time. She says she found herself craving his marijuana too.
Her interest in the drug was incomprehensible to her, until one day a news broadcast on TV sparked a revelation. She blankly starred at the screen while it was revealed that people lace joints by putting crack in marijuana cigarettes.
Soon after, young Barbara approached her mother, devastated and fearful. She pleaded for answers and solutions, but the fell on deaf ears and her stepfather used the knowledge of her addiction as an opportunity to kick her out the house.
Where head held down, she left her children behind and went out alone into the unpredictable streets. “ I had a tackle this addiction that I didn’t know was going to ruin my life,” Barbara says.
While alone, naively observing the streets life, she was approached by a man that offered his apartment to live in, food to eat, and most importantly, her drug of choice. Barbara says she didn’t refuse, and quickly found herself giving sexual pleasures in exchange.
It wasn’t long before she was giving sexual favors to his random associates in exchange for money as well, His physical and emotional abuse created a growing fear, but Barbara believed she owned him and felt trapped under his control.
As time progressed, the man introduced her to his female neighbor.
The female neighbor immediately began preparing Barbara to sell her body on Agler Road and beyond. She stated by dressing Barbara in revealing clothes, covered her natural beauty with make-up and gave her the sexiest hair styles. “She came down and got me together,” Barbara says.
Lead by this female, she recalls looking back at the man for acceptance as she was lured out into the streets. She remembers him telling her that, “It’s okay, you will be back,: Barbara says.
Her first night on the streets paved the way for an unaccountable amount of nights to come. She was demanded to perform sexual pleasures in and outside of the home in which she lived. Eventually, that familiar setting came to an end when the man landed in jail.
With her “pimp,” the man that exerted control over her and lived off the earnings of her prostitution , now in jail, Barbara says she was left broke and homeless. Clueless, she wandered back to her mother’s house, where she was offered to be taken to a shelter.
“You mean to tell me I’m homeless?” Barbara asks, realizing for the first time that she is indeed homeless. As burning tears fell from her eyes, she battled with feeling unloved and insignificant. She says she viewed this as confirmation of what others have said about her not amounting to anything. She left her mother’s house exhausted and hopeless.
Barbara continued her deteriorating journey on the street with an animalistic mentality. She sought to survive at all costs. Too many times she found herself being escorted to jail for one charge or another. She remained unfamiliar to what love felt like and she found herself having numerous broken relationships. She attracted males that committed crimes and sold drugs. She used their supply to her advantage in her addition. Her life consisted of getting high and turning tricks.
“I couldn’t see that I was about to lose life, Barbara says.
Countless times she endured the abuse of men. She survived a brutal attack where she was left for dead. With a swollen head, disfigured face and internal damages, doctors estimated her chance of survival to be no longer that 2003.
Barbara refused to look at herself in the mirror because who was staring back was not familiar. That image haunted her and caused pain. She was both a prisoner of her own body and her pimp, who she had recently reunited with.
For 13 years, she was enslaved, locked in his basement, and restricted from living a “normal” life that she had so desired as a young girl. She attempted to escape on numerous occasions just to be dragged back and forced to continue to be in bondage.
Once, he became ill and she made a successful escape away for his Hell. Still dependent of drugs and prostitution she resorted to what she knew best to make money to support her addiction.
Barbara awoke on the morning of April 8, 2009 with unused drugs on her lap. She was unsuccessful in using the drug when she attempted because her hands were shaky. Weary and defeated, she headed outside. As she stood on the porch she was memorized by a glaring bright light from above, “I knew it was the power of God,” Barbara says.
She stood there in a daze Questioning her own eyes. She says she felt the light wrap around her body. She signaled “peace” with her two fingers to her nearby friends as she fled the porch and walked down the street.
In no time, a man yelled out to get her attention as she was so often accustomed to. She approached the vehicle to find a man that had never been a patron in the area, and he asked her why she was on the streets.
“I’ve been out here since I was 16 years old. This is all I know.” Barbara says she told him. After a brief exchange with the man, Barbara found herself arrested for an outstanding warrant. She says she is convinced that the undercover officer was an angel that the Lord has sent to protect her.
That morning in jail, Barbara cried out. “I said, God, I need you to help me. I need you to take the taste out of my mouth and the desire away from me,” Barbara says.
When she appeared in court soon after, she was ready and willing to participate in any treatment program available. She enrolled and became one of the first participants and graduates of the Changing Actions to Change Habits court program (CATCH) in Ohio that provides adult victims of human trafficking a new release on life.
She accredits the founder, Jude Paul Herbert, and his staff for their compassion to realize she had been the victim and not a criminal. Barbara gives special recognition to the residential rehabilitation program staff for constantly being an inspiration and, motivation. She describes staying clean and sober an easy task because God had delivered her.
During her early recovery, she spent hours studying the Bible and truly falling in love.
“God told me I was going to go out and save women from the same thing that I saved you from,” Barbara says. For the last three years, she h ad held to her assignment. She provides women that she encounters advice, resources, and prayer.
She commits her time to be a sister to these ladies, forming a community of women that desire to take back control of their lives. She fills her schedule with speaking engagement to bring awareness and prayerfully speak life into a soul that might be dead.
“If I had to go through what I went through to help these women today, then I have much gratitude,” Barbara says.
She says she knows saving women is what drives and motivates her life. With a passion to help, she founded The Freedman Project, which is designed to allow women to get to know themselves and love who they are. She recruits ladies right off the dangerous streets of Columbus and empowers them. She encourages women that are survivors to share their stories in order to help other women escape.
Barbara is actively finding and creating ways to bring awareness to human trafficking. She is featured in a campaign commercial for Governor John Kasish, giving recognition to him for bringing about stronger penalties to those that traffic women and children. She was honored as the Women of Achievement for 2014 with the YWCA for her accomplishments and her dedication to the community.
She also joins with the Salvation Army and human trafficking coalition to be a mentor to survivors and appeared in a movie titled “Turn Out” that aired this summer. The movie aims to expose the hidden truths of trafficking.
Further, Barbara advocates for an apartment housing program by arranging interviews with prospective tenants that have unfavorable background that she says deserve to be given a second chance.
Her passion is to save women from the harsh reality of human trafficking and the illness of drug addiction. She has dedicated her life to bringing awareness to men and women who are unaware of what is occurring in their own back yards.
Her desire to save these victims leads her to the same streets she once walked unsteadily down to rescue them from the harmful hands of their oppressors.
“Today I am free, and I refuse to lose me,” Barbara says.
Story written by Tamani Lucy- Thompson