Heather Leggett (right) joined close to 20 people to march along 32nd Street in the intense heat Thursday, July 30 to raise awareness around sex trafficking. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)

Okanagan woman recounts emotional sex trafficking past

Local rally raises awareness, helps local lady regain power by sharing story

Tears swell in Heather’s eyes as she recounts the brutal beatings, being forced to sell her body on the streets, and yet never seeing a dime.

Heather Leggett was only 15 when she ran away from the rape and abuse she endured in multiple different foster homes. But her life was not about to get any better.

She saw a glimmer of hope when she met a group of girls who pretended to be her friends and took her to a man who bought her clothes and jewelry and groomed her. But that life soon turned dark when he beat her up one night, drugged her and then put her on the street.

“I did keep trying to escape,” Leggett, now 51, of Vernon said.

“I was never allowed outside during the day… it was worse than an animal. I didn’t see daylight.”

She recalls him burning her, tying her up naked and letting his friends use her.

The tall, thin Indigenous woman lived like that for three years before her last attempt to escape.

“I found this family, and he had beat me up so bad, I was scared he was going to kill me, and this family hid me.”

It’s a past from which Leggett has run long enough. On Thursday, July 30, she decided it was time for her to reclaim her power back.

Sitting down with a reporter, the single mother of four shared the gruesome details of her past. And she did so, just prior to taking her message to the Vernon streets in a rally against sex trafficking.

Leggett was one of nearly 20 people – men and women – who marched with signs in an effort to raise awareness about the cause.

Morgan Morrone is the heart of the march since starting a Facebook group called #savethechildren to bring more awareness and gather those who want to be stronger advocates for the victims. Since starting the group four days prior to the rally, she was pleased to see more than 200 members already, but is hoping more people will take the time to join and educate themselves.

READ MORE: Vernon marches for sex trafficking awareness

For Leggett, it was a milestone day to join the movement and share her story with the public.

“I would never have done this two years ago,” said Leggett.

Yet, since being in trauma counselling, she has started to heal, slowly but surely.

“It is truly my passion to put hope out there for other women, aboriginal women and white women.”

She acknowledges that Indigenous women are more likely to suffer a life like hers – and it usually begins as a child.

For Leggett, both her mother and father were involved in murders, therefore she was put in the foster system. But the system failed her.

“One foster home, the dad (raped) me for seven years and I told, and he never got charged, I just got moved to another foster home.”

While her counselling has helped her know that she is safe, she is loved and her life is worth living, her past continues to haunt her.

“I still wake up every night checking the doors, checking the windows and making sure my kids are alright. It’s tiring.”


@VernonNews
jennifer@vernonmorningstar.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Child advocateChild welfareIndigenous sexual assaultsex assaultsex predatorSex Traffickingsexual abuse

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Morning Start: The human body contains trace amounts of gold

Your morning start for Friday, August 7, 2020

Roots & Blues announces ticket giveaway ahead of online festival

The festival is streaming free online this year, but those who pre-register can win passes for 2021.

Vernon business restores faith in humanity for houseboat fire victims

Community kindness leaves out-of-province father in tears of appreciation

Sicamous Eagles’ Jaxon Danilec moving on to Alberta Junior A team

Following a divisional MVP performance, the Olds Grizzlys came calling

Daughter follows closely in mother’s Salmon Arm career footsteps

Human service work program holds potential for variety of job options

371 British Columbians battling COVID-19, health officials confirm

Thursday (Aug. 6) saw a second straight day of nearly 50 new confirmed cases

‘We don’t make the rules’: Okanagan pub owner says staff harassed over pandemic precautions

‘If you have six people plus a baby, guess what? That’s seven’ - West Kelowna Kelly O’Bryan’s owner

Remembering Brent Carver: A legend of Broadway who kept his B.C. roots strong

Over the years, the Cranbrook thespian earned his place as one of Canada’s greatest actors

Vernon social justice group rallies to raise awareness for human trafficking victims

Indigenous women make up 4 per cent of Canadian population, 50 per cent of trafficking victims

Statistics Canada says country gained 419,000 jobs in July

National unemployment rate was 10.9 per cent in July, down from the 12.3 per cent recorded in June

Canada plans $3.6 billion in retaliatory tariffs on U.S. in aluminium dispute

The new Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement that replaced NAFTA went into force on July 1

Canada ‘profoundly concerned’ over China death sentence for citizen in drug case

Police later confiscated more than 120 kilograms of the drug from Xu Weihong’s home

COLUMN: Listen to those who know about COVID-19

Accurate information is essential when understanding the pandemic

Penticton man wakes to wildfire, forced to evacuate

A wildfire sparked off the side of Highway 97 near Penticton on Thursday

Most Read