When I heard about the horrendous lake effect snowstorm in Buffalo this week, I immediately thought about another blizzard there -- one that not only took lives, but one that saved a life. I emailed Danielle, the main subject of my feature documentary Tricked and asked her if the blizzard of 2014 had triggered any memories for her. This is what she replied:
"The hardships in Buffalo this week sparked many memories for me, but they were not of desperation and struggle, they were ones of miracles, empowerment, and hope. Back in December of 2001, I was under the control of a violent pimp and working the streets of Boston. It was an act of God that I had been permitted to leave to visit family and friends in Buffalo and unite with my mother and brother for Christmas. The pimp had such complete control over me, physically and mentally, that I had become a zombie. I did what I was told under threat of violence or death. The pimp felt I was brainwashed enough that he could let me go on a short, few day, vacation to Buffalo, 200% sure that I would come directly back to his control, no electric shock collar needed. What could possibly happen in Buffalo, NY?
Snow! It snowed 6 feet that week and my "few day" trip turned into almost 2 weeks. That blizzard saved my life! The onset of so much snow caused a state of emergency, no flights in or out, no vehicles allowed on the roads, no escape from my family back to the pimp. That additional time in Buffalo began to melt the mental and emotional walls my brainwashing had created. As they started to crumble my consciousness began to return. Spending time isolated with people who truly loved me I realized I was in a position I might never be in again, and that I could escape the control of the pimp. With the help of my mother, I was able to return to her home in NJ and begin my life anew. For most people, 6 feet of lake effect snow causes more harm than good, but for me, it was a gift from God. Maybe, just maybe, another life is being saved today. One can only hope. At a minimum, maybe my story will bring some peace to those suffering in the blizzard of 2014."
Danielle Douglas, seen here snow-bound in Buffalo, was trafficked at the age of 17 while a freshman at Northeastern University. After the blizzard of 2001 she never returned to her pimp and the life of an indentured sex worker. She now speaks regularly as an anti-trafficking advocate. She starred in the documentary film, Tricked, which will be released by First Run Features on DVD on February 3rd 2015.