Jessica is a survivor of sex trafficking - she was kidnapped at gun-point when she was 17 years old, raped and branded with a tattoo on her neck. Jessica was forced to prostitute herself and she suffered great physical, sexual and mental abuse at the hands of her pimp and countless other men. She escaped when she was 20 years old and now has a good relationship with her mother and her daughter. Jessica says she would not have made it without the help of the Mary Magdalene Project, now called Journey Out, an organisation that helps survivors of sex trafficking and/or commercial sexual exploitation. They kept her safe and ensured that no one could find her, alongside providing her with programs to help her establish a new life.
The artist Lydia Emily Archibald wanted to create this mural to highlight the fact that sex trafficking is happening every day in America. She believes artwork 'can do more than hang, it can help,' and she hopes other survivors will look up at this mural and find inspiration in it.
Archibald included two hummingbirds in the mural because when Jessica recounted her story, she mentioned that she loved these birds and they reminded her of her grandmother. The hummingbird at the top represents her grandmother and the one at the bottom represents her daughter, who Jessica had when she was 16 years old.
The mural is situated in an area of LA where sex trafficking is prolific and the artist and her team faced abuse from locals. This corner was a popular place for drug-dealing and the painting of the mural temporarily shut down business for many dealers, leaving many unhappy at the muralists presence. Nevertheless they persisted and the mural is still there today.
To watch Jessica's story and see her reaction to the unveiling of the mural, click here.