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)

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

Amanda Parsons, a registered nurse on staff at the Northwood Care facility, administers a dose of the Moderna vaccine to Ann Hicks, 77, in Halifax on Monday, Jan. 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan-Pool
61 new COVID-19 cases, two more deaths in Interior Health

Twenty-nine people are in hospital, seven of whom are in intensive care

Cody Younker was sworn in as a city councillor in 2018. (File)
Revelstoke city councillor requests leave of absence in wake of sexual assault allegations

Cody Younker is accused in civil court of sexual abusing a teen in 2014

Cody Younker, Revelstoke city councillor. (Jocelyn Doll/Revelstoke Review)
Revelstoke councillor accused of sexually abusing Langley teen while school chaperone

Lawsuit alleges Cody Younker sexually abused student while volunteering on school trips

Revelstoke doctor Vikki Haines receives a vaccine for COVID-19. (Photo via Facebook)
COVID-19 vaccines come to Revelstoke

The Selkirk Medical Group were the first to announce that team members had been vaccinated

Syringe is prepared with one of B.C.’s first vials of Pfizer vaccine to prevent COVID-19, Victoria, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 caseload stays steady with 465 more Tuesday

No new outbreaks in health care facilities, 12 more deaths

(Big White Ski Resort)
28 more cases of COVID-19 linked to Big White cluster

More than 200 cases have been identified since the cluster was announced

Police are seeking further witnesses after an elderly woman who was struck by a vehicle in Salmon Arm succumbed to her injuries. (File Photo)
Salmon Arm pedestrian dies after being hit by truck along Highway 1

Collision took place on Jan. 15 in downtown Salmon Arm, police looking for witnesses

A cow moose wanders around the Silver Star Elementary School neighbourhood Tuesday, Jan. 19. (Contributed)
Moose chases two people near North Okanagan school

Conservation and dog control attending to the situation

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

The sale of the Kirschner Mountain Development for $22M marks the largest in Realtor history, in the Okanagan. (Contributed)
Kelowna mountain development sold for $22M

The sale of the 640-acre Kirschner Mountain development has made the history books

New Westminster TV production designer, Rick Whitfield, has designed an office in a box for British Columbians in need of a private workspace. (BC Box Office photo)
PHOTOS: B.C. man designs ‘box office’ solution for those working from home

‘A professionally designed workspace on your property, away from the distractions of home’

Chilliwack ER doctor Marc Greidanus is featured in a video, published Jan. 18, 2021, where he demonstrates and describes effectiveness of various styles of masks. (Youtube)
VIDEO: Emergency room doctor runs through pros and cons of various masks

‘We’ve been asked to wear a mask and it’s not that hard,’ Greidanus says.

(Pixabay photo)
VIDEO: Tip to Metro Vancouver transit police helps woman 4,000 km away in Ohio

Sgt. Clint Hampton says transit police were alerted to a YouTube video of the woman in mental distress

Most Read