Former Oklahoma Stripper Speaking Out Against Human Trafficking

Monday, July 7th 2014, 6:33 pm
By: News 9

A former Oklahoma City exotic dancer is raising awareness about human trafficking.

Stephanie Henry is sharing her story of sexual abuse, rape, disorders and drug addiction to help others still in that life.

Henry grew up in Oklahoma and eventually was a stripper at several truck stops in Oklahoma City. She said we all have a part in bringing down the big business of human trafficking.

"It's one of the gateway cities," said Henry.

Oklahoma City holds some of the darkest memories for Henry.

"I was not a prostitute. I did things for money, but then I think, what's the difference really," Henry told News 9. "It's all just one big ball of wax of exploitation and desperation."

Henry was sexually abused throughout her childhood and started sexually exploiting herself in strip clubs, which led to more desperate situations. She said she is not alone and points to the rise of human trafficking in Oklahoma.

The National Human Trafficking Resource Center got 292 calls for help from Oklahoma in 2013. That ranked Oklahoma 26th on the list of states with the most calls. Henry wants the public to question more sexually exploitative situations, saying it's better to be safe than sorry.

"It's right here in your community, go ahead and overreact," Henry said.  "Go ahead and be 20, 30, 40% wrong if you look at a situation and wonder ‘Is that a trafficking scandal?'"

On top of exploitation, Henry endured physical abuse, substance abuse, bulimia, and a suicide attempt before getting help and getting out of that life. Now, she is an activist for women's empowerment.

"When you're driving and walking and living, look up and look out ,not just for negative stuff, but look out for the things that people are doing good to stop this, to eradicate sex trade," Henry said.

Henry has written a memoir called, "If Only I Could Sleep," detailing her journey from a victim to an advocate now helping victims.

"There's a lot more of us out there, we just need to find them," she added.

Henry outlines in her book the warning signs of self-sabotaging behavior in young people that can lead to a life like the one she lived for so many years.

Learn more information on Henry's book.