Sex trafficking is not just a problem confined to faraway countries. Here in Milwaukee, girls as young as 13 are coerced into the sex trade. Lucy was one of those girls.

As a young teenager, Lucy was abducted and locked in a basement by a man she thought she could trust. He drugged and exploited her. Thankfully, she escaped. The memories are foggy, partially because of her attempts to block them out, and partially because Lucy used drugs and alcohol as a coping mechanism throughout her teen years.

Looking back, Lucy understands she relied on drugs to escape the reality of an unthinkable childhood fraught with physical abuse. Even so, she excelled in sports and did well in school. But raised by parents who suffered from alcoholism and mental illness took its toll, and at only 10-years-old, Lucy turned to alcohol herself.

She continued on a downward spiral towards drugs. OxyContin at age 13. Heroin at 15. Her dependence worsened to such crippling levels that she resorted to robbery to feed her addiction. She hit rock bottom.

After the state decided Lucy’s parents were unable to care for her, she bounced around the foster care system. Finally, she was sent to Lad Lake, where she met a counselor at the St. Rose campus who would help turn her life around.

“Liz [a Lad Lake counselor] was the only person I could be honest with. She was always there for me.”

At Lad Lake, Lucy engaged in art therapy and daily chores to maintain a schedule, while counselors helped her break her addiction. Today, Lucy has been sober for over a year and recently earned her GED. She works hard to surround herself with positive people, and dreams of one day going to college.

When asked about her experience with Lad Lake Lucy explains, “They planted the seed in me of realizing my problems and wanting to change. I now know what happy is.”


  • Sex trafficking has been documented in two-thirds of all Wisconsin counties.
  • Lad Lake houses the state’s only residential treatment center specifically designed for youth survivors of sex trafficking.