Sex-trafficking victim pays it forward at Omaha nonprofit that helped turn her life around

In the last three years, Magdalene Omaha has helped approximately 150 survivors get back on their feet.
A new Omaha organization aims to help and heal victims of sex trafficking and addiction.
Published: Mar. 15, 2023 at 4:48 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Six years ago, if you had told Audrey Durand she would be sitting in her own office, she would’ve been in disbelief.

She said she’s been knocked down several times in her life.

“They believed in me when I didn’t believe in me. They loved me when I didn’t love myself,” Durand said.

From 2017 to 2019, she said, she was involved in sex trafficking and prostitution and had a drug addiction.

“It doesn’t discriminate,” Durand said. “Most people don’t know the signs or don’t recognize the signs.”

NEED HELP? If you or someone knows a victim involved in sex trafficking, call 888-373-7888.

Things came to a head in December 2019 when she was arrested for arson.

After being released in 2021, she knew she had to make a change in her life. She went to Magdalene Omaha, a nonprofit aimed at shining a light of hope on victims of sex trafficking, prostitution, and addiction.

“When I first walked through the door, I was scared I didn’t know what to expect,” Durand said.

Durand said she was received with open arms and was able to call a place home. Through Magdalene, she was able to take a job readiness certificate course and she’s been involved in a survivor-led small business called Thistle Lights.

“We offer comprehensive support,” Houser said. “Everything from helping them find a therapist, transporting them to appointments, getting signed up for benefits, and coming to our classes and our peer support groups.”

Theresa Houser founded Magdalene Omaha in 2016. They’ve supported an average of 150 survivors per year for the last three years.

They also just moved into a new building that Houser said will provide more opportunities for survivors to heal and grow.

“You get a chance to create a life you want moving forward,” Houser said. “This is your time.”

Now, Durand wants to help other victims involved in sex trafficking. Recently, she’s been helping make mental health kits that have things like journals, blankets, and hygiene products.

“I just don’t want to leave anybody behind,” Durand said.

Magdalene Omaha also offers long-term residential services for adult women for up to 24 months.