From Victim to Voice
Human trafficking/sexual exploitation is one of the biggest issues facing our world today. Despite the rapidly increasing numbers of those who fall victim to these heinous crimes, the issue is still denied or flat out ignored by the mainstream media and legislative powers that be. Of those who have chosen to stand up and fight against this rapidly growing illegal trade, you will find Andi Buerger. A victim of abuse and trafficking herself, Andi has dedicated her life to providing hope and help to those who have suffered the same nightmares she did as a child. Through her work with Beulah’s Place and Voices Against Trafficking, Andi has become a beacon of hope and healing for so many while providing a strong, uplifting voice for those who don’t have one. This is the story of how one woman turned unimaginable pain and trauma into unwavering strength and resilience.
From the age of 6 months to 17 years old, Andi was sexually abused, exploited and trafficked by those who were supposed to care for her most, her own immediate and extended family. “The earliest memory I have of my mother was when I was 3 and a half. My brother and I had accidentally touched the walls while playing. My mother grabbed a butcher’s knife and began chasing us,reminding us just how she did every day, how easily she could take our lives.” Andi shares. It never got any better from there at home for Andi. “One day when I was 5, it just became way too much. I decided that I was going to end my life since my mom wanted to so badly anyway. I went out to the busiest street in front of my house and waited to jump in front of the first car I saw. It never came. I looked up into the big blue sky and just knew that there had to be something bigger and better and more loving than the people who were hurting me. A voice told me that this wasn’t what they had planned. This was not the way. At that moment, God stepped into my life. I ran inside and just said to whatever it was that if it kept me alive, I would do whatever they wanted and directed me to do in my life.”
For the next 12 and a half years, Andi endured daily sexual, physical, mental and emotional abuse at the hands of her immediate and extended family. There were more suicide attempts. There was more divine intervention as well. How could someone go through this kind of torment daily for 17 years and remain positive that it was all going to work out somehow, someway? “I just wanted to be loved. I wanted to love someone or something. Most importantly, I knew that I was worthy of being loved. I knew that the minute I was able to escape, that I was going to find what I was so desperately looking for.” After all the pain, after all the abuse, after more and more attempts on her life from her mother, Andi was finally able to get away and go on to college.
Anyone who has ever survived any kind of trauma understands that you may be able to escape the physical situation, but the pain stays with you wherever you go. If not dealt with, that pain will manifest itself in other unhealthy ways or decisions. Andi dove head first into school. She was determined to be successful. She was determined to build that happy life she had always longed for. She finished a year early. After college, she decided to go to law school. “I thought that if I went to law school, I was going to help all of the kids out there who were just like me. What I quickly learned was that the system in those days didn’t save children. I saw kids going back to their abusers. I saw kids in the system who had no business being in the system. No one took the time to listen to these kids and find out why they were running away and doing the things they were doing. The system was fooled by the deceptive optics of the situations where everything looked good on the outside but on the inside it was a living hell.”
The next 8 years for Andi were almost as much of a living hell as her years as a child. Andi had ended up in a highly abusive marriage. Again the outside optics were great. They were church-going, seemingly happy people. On the inside, Andi found herself battling yet again to stay alive. However, Andi being the unbelievable symbol of perseverance she is today, says she was able to learn a lot from the process. “Due to the abuse, I found myself in counseling. In that counseling I realized that had I been healthier myself, I would have never married that person. I was able to figure out who I was, how to communicate and what it was I wanted to be.”
Come 1999, God had decided to send Andi a miracle. That miracle came in the form of her now husband, Ed. “From the moment we met, I think we both knew that we were going to spend our lives together. I was of course somewhat guarded because of my past, but with Ed, those barriers quickly dissolved and we were married the very next year.” Fast forward to 2008. Andi was unable to work in a typical work environment due to the fourth of nine traumatic brain injuries as an adult . Despite the medical setbacks, Andi’s spirit and Ed’s undying support wouldn’t let her not fight for those she knew needed her.
“Just as we did every Thanksgiving, Ed and I were serving food at the local senior center. 3 young women walked in. They couldn’t have been more than 17 years old. They each had newborns and they each were living out of their cars. It was only a matter of time before themselves or those babies fell victim to those who prey on signs of weakness such as their situation. Ed and I looked at each other and we knew we had to do something.” It is statistically known that within 48 hours of being on the street, teens will be involved with trafficking of some kind. Exhaustion, hunger, and survival all kick in and when they have nowhere to go and no one to trust. Traffickers and predators jump at the opportunity.
That day in 2008, the vision for Beulah’s Place was born. After a couple of years of hard work, raising awareness and raising funds, it became a reality. Everything you need to know about what Beulah’s Place means to the community of Redmond, Oregon and beyond, can be found in its mission statement. It states “ To lead homeless teens away from sexual exploitation by criminals and predators. Here, in a non-judgmental environment, Beulah’s Place will provide victims and at-risk kids help, healing, and most of all, hope.” By the time that most of these kids have reached Beulah’s Place, they are on their last legs. This is where the beauty of their program kicks in. After an extensive intake process, they sit down with each child and develop a plan specific for them. Given the age of most of the victims seeking assistance, a quick turnaround into independence is required. Each person is required to both complete high school and find a job quickly. They have helped these kids not only survive but become functioning and successful members of society. “We have kids who have gone on to college and not only succeed but excel at Dean’s List levels. There is a 92% success rate through our program. Safe houses WANT to take in our kids because of how hard they work to turn their life around and the example they are to others. We have even taken 16 kids into our own home to provide what they were in need of. It has been a blessing from God to be able to change so many lives and provide hope where there was once none.” On Christmas 2019, Andi and Ed were given the greatest gift they had ever received when one of the kids they had been housing for the past 6 years asked them to be her parents. The adoption became official in January of 2020. She is currently enrolled at college and performing tremendously.
Along with Beulah’s Place, Andi and Ed have branched out and now launched “Voices Against Trafficking”, an organization of global partners and advocates with one common goal in mind: to eradicate the profit off of human lives. “Voices Against Trafficking” gives a voice to the countless men, women and children who do not have one. When it comes to human trafficking, VAT fights for justice and to provide the specialized care that these victims need all over the world. VAT also allows the opportunity to any person, from any walk of life to join in the fight against human trafficking. This year, they are looking to relaunch their ADD YOUR VOICE campaign whose goal is to reach one million voices in a genuine human rights movement which will positively impact communities all over the world. Their next public forum will be held via ZOOM on March 24th from 2PM to 3:30PM EDT. For access to the event and more information, please visit www.voicesagainsttrafficking.com
Andi Buerger’s story is a remarkable one indeed. Her ability to overcome, adapt and turn her own personal horrors into strength, hope and love for countless others is something I truly don’t think could ever be done justice. We also need to remind ourselves that Andi’s story is also one of thousands that never get to be told. As incredibly brave as Andi is and as lucky as she is to be alive, too many haven’t been as fortunate. As many as have been saved, there are way more out there with no clue that someone like Andi or The Hue Jackson Foundation is fighting for them. If there ever was a chance to really make an impact and truly change the world, it starts right here and right now.