(QUEEN CITY NEWS) — Back in December, Queen City News and its parent company Nexstar, launched a campaign to feature remarkable women throughout our area this month. We asked you to tell us about the remarkable women in your life, and you answered.

The statistics on human trafficking in this country are staggering. In 2020, the human trafficking hotline took more than 50,000 calls. North Carolina ranks ninth on the list of top 10 states for human trafficking.

Monique Johnson
Monique Johnson

That brings us to Monique Johnson. Monique runs Charlotte’s human trafficking support organization called A Fresh Start CLT. Her idea was actually sparked by a movie. “Taken” was released in 2009, starring Liam Neeson as a former government operative who finds himself suddenly trying to rescue his daughter from a sex trafficking ring. After Monique saw the movie, she felt like she just had to do something. She recalls, “My heart’s desire was to be like Liam Neeson and go rescuing, going to doors and rescuing survivors, but I knew there was so much more that I could do.”

So in 2019, just a few years after moving to Charlotte, she brought her idea to fruition, and started A Fresh Start CLT, because human trafficking is happening right here in our own backyard. “It is happening… through labor trafficking, through domestic servitude, sex trafficking… it’s happening all around us. And it’s not until we become aware of it, that we’re able to see it more clearly,” Johnson says.

The mission of A Fresh Start CLT is to provide addiction and holistic counseling to human trafficking survivors and their children. Monique calls it a three-step process—grow, heal, and thrive.

Johnson says it wasn’t only about rescuing them, it was about the aftermath.

“How could I restore their dignity, how could I help them to understand that they are worthy, that they are not the things they’ve been through? There’s so much more to life than what they’ve experienced.”

Charlotte is one of the largest cities in the country, but surprisingly, there was a lack of resources for survivors. Monique knew it. Friend Jennifer Moxley does, too. “It’s embarrassing that we don’t have resources for human trafficking survivors, and Monique is leading that vision that we’re already behind on,” Moxley says. “It’s not a big goal; it’s a goal that we’re late to the game on.”

With goal number one accomplished, Monique is looking ahead to her next big goal—building a restorative living facility, which would provide housing for survivors and their children for 18 months. Monique is quick to point out that the program wouldn’t be possible without the rest of her team, board members, and volunteers—all working with the same love and compassion that Monique shows to survivors every day.

The work of A Fresh Start CLT can’t be done without continued support from the community. If you’d like to volunteer your time or make a donation, go to afreshstartclt.com.