With training for law enforcement, sex trafficking survivor hopes to ‘plant a seed’ of hope ― and action

"So God made me strong enough. He took me through my struggle. And now here I am at 56 still telling my story."
Published: Jan. 27, 2023 at 5:51 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Elesondra “Ele” De Romano was invited to Hawaii at the request of Homeland Security.

Her message is a particularly timely one this January ― Human Trafficking Awareness month.

She is a survivor of commercial sexual exploitation and has been sharing her story to educate law enforcement agencies and youth, but also give victims hope.

“So God made me strong enough,” said De Romano. “He took me through my struggle and now here I am at 56 still telling my story. De Romano’s father was one of the biggest drug dealers in Detroit.

She said he prostituted her mother.

De Romano was trafficked at the age of 11.

“I was generational, but I was still taken at 11 years old and pimped out,” said De Romano.

After being released from juvenile detention at 17 years old, she returned to the streets, but this time in Ohio.

“I’ve been out here prostituting myself for drugs, because of what happened to me, let’s make a difference, they need to have some hope,” said De Romano. “If they do not have hope, they’re going to die out here.”

And hope is what De Romano wants to give victims.

She’s been doing street outreach since 2004 and began her second non-profit in 2012, Standing Together Accomplishing Real Solutions or STARS.

“My lane is being the steppingstone to get these kids to trust a psychologist, to get these kids to trust law enforcement officers to prosecute the pimps,” said De Romano. “That’s my goal.”

During her Hawaii visit, De Romano met with law enforcement agencies across the state and taught them how to reach out to victims of sex trafficking or those at high risk.

She also did some outreach of her own in Waikiki, connecting with more than a dozen people.

“They have to know that somebody cares enough about them,,” said De Romano. “I’m not from Hawaii, but if somebody could plant the seed, then the people of Hawaii need that backup and start watering the seed that I plant so it can grow some roots.”

De Romano is a national consultant, a motivational speaker and advocate.

To connect with her, send an email to elsson21@gmail.com.