Sister Peggy Cummins, age 67, runs a safe house for survivors of sex trafficking. Honoring her vow to chastity for 48 years, she had no experience with either sex or trafficking when she began this work in 2011. Yet the horror and debasement did not shock her. Instead she was jolted by a different realization.
“They are normal, beautiful women. God has made us so much alike. I look at them and say that could have been me,” said Sister Peggy with the Sisters of Notre Dame.
Bakhita House originally opened in Quincy, Massachusetts but now operates north of Boston.
It’s namesake, St. Josephine Bakhita, kidnapped from the Sudan and enslaved in Italy, is the patron saint of trafficking victims. When Sister Peggy and others learned that once such women escape or are rescued, they have nowhere to go, the idea for a safe house was born.
“We form communities all the time. How about one for these girls? So we got a house and formed a task force. We accommodate only three. We keep it small, like a family, like a home, not like a traditional shelter.”
Since 2011, about 33 women have been housed, each for up to a year, like 19-year-old “Linda.”
Linda’s mother was an addict whose boyfriend sexually abused Linda. Later in a foster home, Linda was beaten and became a constant runaway. A stranger took her under his wing offering help and protection. Soon the older man was having sex with the teenager. One day the rent was due and he forced Linda into prostitution.