Leslie King saves women from streets
Editor’s note: Each issue of the Influential Women enewsletter will feature profiles of the Business Journal’s reigning 50 Most Influential Women in West Michigan. The profile first appeared in the event program.
Leslie King is a true unsung hero and a survivor of what she calls “modern-day slavery.”
She uses her own personal story — which entails being coerced into prostitution at the age of 15 and subsequently enduring more than 20 years of human trafficking in Grand Rapids — to shed light on the local street scene and to reach out and empower those affected by sex trafficking.
Hundreds of women
In the eight years since she founded the nonprofit Sacred Beginnings Women’s Transitional Program, King has rescued or served the needs of more than 400 prostituted women in the Grand Rapids area, providing them with the means to escape victimization and lead educated and productive lives.
Although her work often goes unseen and unrecognized, she has been changing lives through intense advocacy on behalf of sex victims and her caring, intentional work with the women and girls trapped into working the streets.
She's working toward a systematic recognition that the real lawbreakers are the pimps and johns who solicit the women and enforce the indentured lifestyle. She regularly informs law enforcement and policy makers about human trafficking in their own backyards.
A strong advocate of higher education as part of rehabilitation, she's now pursuing a master’s degree in social work at Grand Valley State University.
In the community
King sits on the committee for the Michigan Human Trafficking Task Force, is president of the Kent County Recovery Housing Coalition and chairs the board for Sacred Beginnings, in addition to running the all-volunteer organization.