Marian Hatcher, Project Manager, Cook County, Illinois, Sheriff’s Women’s Justice Programs
his year, I will celebrate a decade of sobriety and the 10th anniversary of my release from Cook County Jail. The interesting thing is I never really left.
Inspired by my experience with the sheriff’s office staff, I essentially walked out of the cell and into an office as a volunteer, receiving and providing peer support. Ten years, four positions, and five titles later, I am now a Project Manager for the Cook County Sheriff’s Women’s Justice Programs (SWJP).
Established in 1999 for nonviolent female offenders, SWJP is a research- and evidence-based gender-responsive program based on an integrated treatment model, which complements trauma-informed mental health treatment with substance abuse recovery. This model addresses the complex issues impacting women’s functioning and substance use in a safe, supportive environment—the necessity of which I can attest to firsthand.
I also coordinate the Sheriff’s National Day of Johns Arrests initiative, a national coalition of law enforcement agencies coming together to arrest sex solicitors. The opportunity to coordinate strategic planning, draft precept papers, recruit new partners, monitor actual execution, and collect the data of simultaneous sting operations in an effort that has grown to 51 jurisdictions across the United States is almost surreal.
My road to the life of a trafficking victim and eventually Cook County Jail was different than many victims’ stories. I was not a runaway, nor a dropout. In fact, I graduated from Loyola University in 1985 with a bachelor’s degree in finance, and I worked my way up through the corporate world, working for large, successful companies such as Balcor Property Management, Sega Pinball, and Everest Healthcare Services, where I managed a staff of 25 and oversaw financial services and projects, gaining skills that I use today at SWJP.
However, my most rewarding responsibility has been the opportunity to personally intervene and mentor women in crisis. In February 2009, the Cook County Sheriff’s Police Vice Unit began conducting prostitution sting operations with my partners and I—all trafficking survivors—handling on-site interventions for the women. As of March 2014, we have provided interventions to close to 400 female victims of human trafficking, including runaway juveniles.
As a survivor, I have been raped, beaten, kidnapped, and left for dead. Sharing those experiences with victims provides common ground, opens the door for dialogue, and lays a foundation of trust. I was also missing for two years, which is a common experience for victims. Sharing the consequences of long absences from friends and family is extremely important when intervening with women who have been driven away from their loved ones by abusive pimps.
Sharing my personal experience of returning from an underworld of victimization and incarceration with rescued women is valuable beyond measure, as I can tell them firsthand that they must be prepared to face disappointed parents and angry children and counsel them on allowing those we left behind their own process, no matter how much we see ourselves as the victims.
As a result of being absent from my life, the most damage, other than to myself, was to my family unit. My lifestyle forced child services involvement with my three daughters and two sons, which ultimately resulted in losing custody of my youngest child. I was blessed, however, as my 74-year-old aunt became her foster mother and subsequently adopted her. Today I am allowed the privilege of co-parenting her, and I was able to attend her high school graduation in May 2014. In addition to sharing this experience with my victims, I can also share with victims the joy of being a grandmother to a brilliant three-year-old!
It is a wonderful feeling to share my personal experience of healing and forgiveness that took place over a number of years by listening to my family’s pain and honestly sharing mine.
There is of course the “Game Recognizes Game” factor. Over time, victims have been nothing short of brainwashed by pimps and traffickers, picking up survival tactics that result in them attempting manipulation, deception, and other factors that can hinder efforts to rescue and restore them. My personal experience and subsequent treatment allows me to simply cut through the games (whether intentional or simply a learned behavior) and get to the business of helping these women.
I let them know that there is hope, as long as they don’t give up. I show them that we are available to help them on both immediate and long-term bases with every aspect of recovery from abuse, trauma, addiction, physical and mental health problems, education, employment, housing, family reunification needs, and caregiver services.
A select few of us have been granted the privilege of healing and empowering others, but the work cannot simply be carried out in a vacuum. To have an impact on the movement and on society, we must knock down doors and stand firm in our resolve to carry the message: We are no longer crippled by victimization; we have survived and are thriving, living life.
Ten years and counting…. ♦
Please cite as:
Marian Hatcher, “Ten Years and Counting... One Woman’s Path from Survivor to Mentor,” The Police Chief 81 (July 2014): 43.