Wendy Barnes was introduced to sex trafficking by her first love, the father of her children. And Life Continues is her story: how she became a victim of human trafficking, why she was unable to leave the man who enslaved her for 15 years, and the obstacles she overcame to heal and rebuild her life after she was rescued.

I don’t audition for very many audiobooks. The audition script has to be decently written, first of all; then it has to be interesting to me personally; and finally it has to be emotionally challenging enough to be a good workout for my acting chops.

In the audition script for And Life Continues, the author is telling about an incident where she was walking her usual route to try and pick up “dates” when a police car pulls over behind her and stops. She’s dismayed because she knows he’ll first yell at her and shame her for being a prostitute, and then either haul her off to jail or make her leave and find another place to solicit … both of which will result in her bringing home less money than her boyfriend expects. And that will mean more shame and very likely a beating.

But this cop only wants to talk to her. This is in Seattle in the mid-1990s, and someone has been killing young women in that area. He just wants her to be safe. When he asks her, “Are you OK?” she is stunned. She can’t understand how someone, a stranger, could actually care about her, when everyone else in her life makes her feel absolutely worthless.

This was a great scene, so I gave it my best shot. And I’m so glad I did.

The author, Wendy Barnes, is a lovely woman in her early 50s who now lives in California. She told me I perfectly captured the tone and vibe of her story, and she wanted to hire me to narrate the book. One of her first questions to me, though, was if I felt I could handle the subject matter. She went through years of violence – physical, sexual, mental, and emotional – and she wanted to be sure I would be OK with telling her story.

And that right there is the point of this book. Wendy experienced the lowest of human lows, and just by catching a glimmer of hope at the right moments, she was able to pull herself out of despair and find a way to become whole. She’s now the beacon that so many other people need to catch a glimpse of so they can start their journey out of the darkness, too.

This is not a read for the faint-hearted. Wendy’s daughter Latasha, who grew up in the middle of the prostitution ring run by her father (and is also an amazing and caring person), told me that this is even the watered-down version of the narrative, because the true events were too horrible to publish. The physical and sexual abuse is graphic, but the mental and emotional terrorization leaves far deeper scars. Wendy and Latasha will still be struggling to deal with that history for the rest of their lives.

My hope is that readers will understand the process Wendy had to go through to be able to make the choices that changed her life’s direction. Even after she was rescued from the prostitution ring and her “boyfriend” (pimp) was in prison, it took her years to begin to love herself enough to value her own decisions. 

Very few of us will ever find ourselves in actual circumstances like Wendy’s; but we all deal with issues of self-worth from time to time. I’m honored to be helping share this story. If you or someone you know is in danger of being trafficked, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 888-3737-888. There is also the Rebecca Bender Initiative which provides training and resources for survivors and law enforcement leaders.

Wendy Barnes is available for appearances, presentations, and trainings.