Heather Leggett (right) joined close to 20 people to march along 32nd Street in the intense heat Thursday, July 30 to raise awareness around sex trafficking. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)

Heather Leggett (right) joined close to 20 people to march along 32nd Street in the intense heat Thursday, July 30 to raise awareness around sex trafficking. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)

Okanagan woman recounts emotional sex trafficking past

Local rally raises awareness, helps local lady regain power by sharing story

Tears swell in Heather’s eyes as she recounts the brutal beatings, being forced to sell her body on the streets, and yet never seeing a dime.

Heather Leggett was only 15 when she ran away from the rape and abuse she endured in multiple different foster homes. But her life was not about to get any better.

She saw a glimmer of hope when she met a group of girls who pretended to be her friends and took her to a man who bought her clothes and jewelry and groomed her. But that life soon turned dark when he beat her up one night, drugged her and then put her on the street.

“I did keep trying to escape,” Leggett, now 51, of Vernon said.

“I was never allowed outside during the day… it was worse than an animal. I didn’t see daylight.”

She recalls him burning her, tying her up naked and letting his friends use her.

The tall, thin Indigenous woman lived like that for three years before her last attempt to escape.

“I found this family, and he had beat me up so bad, I was scared he was going to kill me, and this family hid me.”

It’s a past from which Leggett has run long enough. On Thursday, July 30, she decided it was time for her to reclaim her power back.

Sitting down with a reporter, the single mother of four shared the gruesome details of her past. And she did so, just prior to taking her message to the Vernon streets in a rally against sex trafficking.

Leggett was one of nearly 20 people – men and women – who marched with signs in an effort to raise awareness about the cause.

Morgan Morrone is the heart of the march since starting a Facebook group called #savethechildren to bring more awareness and gather those who want to be stronger advocates for the victims. Since starting the group four days prior to the rally, she was pleased to see more than 200 members already, but is hoping more people will take the time to join and educate themselves.

READ MORE: Vernon marches for sex trafficking awareness

For Leggett, it was a milestone day to join the movement and share her story with the public.

“I would never have done this two years ago,” said Leggett.

Yet, since being in trauma counselling, she has started to heal, slowly but surely.

“It is truly my passion to put hope out there for other women, aboriginal women and white women.”

She acknowledges that Indigenous women are more likely to suffer a life like hers – and it usually begins as a child.

For Leggett, both her mother and father were involved in murders, therefore she was put in the foster system. But the system failed her.

“One foster home, the dad (raped) me for seven years and I told, and he never got charged, I just got moved to another foster home.”

While her counselling has helped her know that she is safe, she is loved and her life is worth living, her past continues to haunt her.

“I still wake up every night checking the doors, checking the windows and making sure my kids are alright. It’s tiring.”


@VernonNews
jennifer@vernonmorningstar.com

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Child advocateChild welfareIndigenous sexual assaultsex assaultsex predatorSex Traffickingsexual abuse

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