“I’m showing my kids a better way to live”

Savannah is still healing from her abusive childhood, which led her to a life of sexual exploitation and addiction. It only took landing in prison to break the cycle.

“You won’t amount to anything except selling yourself on the streets of Vancouver for drugs,” Savannah’s alcoholic mom and step-dad would say to her constantly, relentlessly.

The trauma in her childhood was pervasive: she experienced emotional, physical, and sexual abuse at home.

So Savannah ran away to the streets. She turned her first trick when she was just 13.

During her teen years, Savannah was in and out of foster care, got into meth and crack cocaine, and worked in the sex trade to support her habits. During the height of her addiction, she got arrested in Calgary and was sent to the women’s prison in Edmonton. She eventually was released on day parole and lived at a halfway house; it was during this time that she got connected with a variety of community supports, including CEASE.

Through CEASE, she has been able to heal. She has received counselling, has been part of the Building Blocks For Families program for over a year now, and has also received a bursary to attend Grant MacEwan University. “I never thought I could be in university. That’s one thing my dad always told me, that I would never be smart enough. But here I am, actually passing with good marks.”

Savannah also volunteers with the reintegration team at the women’s prison. By sharing her story, she hopes to empower the women there, to show them another way to live. “[I want to] help give these women some hope, to be like, ‘Hey, we don’t have to do this anymore.’”

Some of the biggest changes in Savannah’s perspective is that she knows she doesn’t have to stand on a corner to survive, or resort to drugs to deal with stress. She has been clean for four years. “I’m breaking my cycle of addiction, I’m showing my kids a better way to life.”