EDITOR’S NOTE: This is part one of a three-part series.
Still wearing the gown they put on her when she got to the doctor’s office, little Kasey McClure slid off the examination table and rushed to comfort her sobbing mother. She put her arms around her and kept saying, “Mama, Johnny did it. Johnny did it.”
They called him Johnny because he hated it when they called him daddy. He was their father, but more than that he was their tormentor, their rapist. And now his little 5-year-old daughter and her 9-year-old sister had both been diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease.
This was just the beginning of two young lives that would be filled with torrential sadness, heartache, betrayal, loneliness, disastrous choices and dread. But there is a happy ending.
That little girl grew up to become a Christian wife, mother, founder of an organization that helps women and girls escape human trafficking and one who just received an invitation to a White House reception because of her work.
But oh, those years in between.
McClure says that her life even began as a violent act when Johnny, who had been drinking, came home and raped her mother, resulting in her mother getting pregnant with her. Her mother planned to have an abortion, but Johnny talked her out of it. McClure said that was the best thing he ever did. Her parents’ relationship remained turbulent, and they were together off and on for years.
Her mother managed bars, so McClure and her sister and brother grew up hanging out and waiting until she finished work so they could go home.
Always on the move, home was sometimes a hotel or a random apartment or a house. It was not unusual for the electricity to get cut off and the children and their mother would have to make do. Such was the case one afternoon when their mother was taking the children to their father’s apartment for his weekend with the kids.
“It was in the 1980s, and we were on our way to his weekend,” McClure said. “We had to go to his house. We were poor, so the lights were out at our house. We were in the car on our way there, and my sister told my mother that Johnny was touching her in her private parts. My mother pulled up to his apartment and he came out to get us and she rolled down the window. I was like 4 years old, but I remember it like it happened yesterday. My mom said, ‘Johnny, Rachel said you’re touching her in her private parts.’ He said, ‘No, Linda.’ My mom told us to get out of the car.”
The children stayed with Johnny that weekend and as always, it was a nightmare.
“When he would rape my sister, he would lock me out of the apartment,” McClure said. “I would sit with my back to the door, and I could hear my sister crying. Her cries just faded away. He would sexually assault her, then when he was done, he would come and let me back in. Even when it was happening to me, I never said anything.
“We were living in Florida, and I went to kindergarten and had to go to the health department. They said I had an STD (sexually transmitted disease). I had gonorrhea. The doctors came in and examined my sister and me and confirmed we were being molested. They did a police report. We had to tell them what happened. We were going back to Alabama to prosecute him, but they lost all the paperwork. They lost everything. My sister refused to go through it again. He agreed to stay away from us.”
But the damage was done. The years that followed would almost cost the sisters their lives.
“As a child, just the trauma of what all had happened didn’t affect me as bad as it did my sister,” McClure said. “She was running away at 12 years old and getting locked up in detention. She traveled a very dark road.”
McClure was 15 when she finally ran away.
“I was a high school dropout,” she said. “I quit school. I came from a very messed up background, and I’ve been on my own since I was 15. I just bounced from house to house.”
McClure’s sister left Alabama at 19 and moved to Atlanta where she began working as a stripper. Already a mother, she had her first baby at the age of 16, and a second one when she was 17. Her sister worked as a stripper for 21 years.
“She got into stripping because she needed money, and I got into stripping because I saw my sister making money,” McClure said, adding that she too moved to Atlanta and joined her sister working in the strip clubs. McClure was 18 and for almost seven years, she was right in the middle of Atlanta’s sex trade, dancing at some of its most famous clubs — including the Gold Club — taking ecstasy and other drugs.
While the money was good, McClure said the life she was living was getting old and tiresome and she was feeling empty.
“There’s got to be a bigger purpose in life than getting naked for men and money,” she said. “You really have to get tired of the industry. It’s really hard for a young girl to walk away from that, but as they get older, you realize it’s a dead-end road. I’ve seen girls die and strung out on drugs and alcohol.”
McClure began searching for purpose and meaning in her life. She had a boyfriend, a man whom she now calls her “knight in shining armor.” She told him she was in a dark place in her mind and life and felt like she needed to go to church, so Jake McClure invited her to his church in Conyers, Faith Tabernacle.
“I kept working in the industry and going to church a lot with his mother,” McClure said. “And then one day while working at the Pink Pony, I got dressed for work and sat at a bar and looked around the club. I really felt out of place and made the decision that night to pack up my locker and walk out. The night I left was July 27, 2003.”
She says it was God who called her out of that lifestyle and introduced her to a congregation of friends who loved her and didn’t judge her.
“I made the decision to walk away from the industry,” she said. “There was some freedom in that. Relief, really. I didn’t have a plan, but God provided a door for me.”
McClure went to work in the health care field and then got involved in the real estate business. Her future mother-in-law gave her an opportunity to work for her in sales.
But it seemed the past was not yet quite the past. McClure was feeling a strong pull back toward her old life working in the clubs. She said she was struggling mentally and emotionally. And she missed the money — which was usually around $1,000 a night. She decided she would go back.
Coming Up Next: Part Two—The Strip Club Ministry Begins
January is National Human Trafficking Awareness Month. To find out how you can help, visit www.4Sarah.net.