A survivor of abuse now helps others

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Grace Manchala of Glory For Ashes, an organization working toward abolishing human trafficking, healing and restoration for trafficking victims and offering education and seminars aimed at helping those who come into contact with victims. (Brenda Ahearn/Daily Inter Lake)

Flathead Valley resident Grace Manchala was brought up in a very religious family. But it was also an abusive family. She had to endure abuse for most of her childhood. When she was a young woman, she met someone who made her believe she could leave behind her worries.

“When I was 19, I met a man who was extremely gentle, loving and kind. Pretty soon I was in love with him,” Manchala said.

What began as a whirlwind relationship turned into a harrowing experience for the young woman.

“He had so captivated my heart, I was unable to see the other things he was doing,” she said

Manchala said for three years she lived with a man who was buying and selling girls through an escort service.

Manchala said coming to God allowed her to leave the relationship and heal from a painful past.

“From then on I have had a passion to work with people who have gone through trauma,” she said.

Today, Manchala is championing an effort to abolish human trafficking, and spread awareness to the community about the crime.

“The community needs to become aware of what is happening in their own backyard,” she said. “They need to know what is happening so they can keep their eyes and ears open, for their own little ones.”

In 2012, the local resident helped draft legislative bills regarding sex trafficking laws. The legislation made a big impact on the way human trafficking crimes are handled today.

Within the next few years, the national nonprofit Shared Hope International upgraded Montana’s grade for child sex trafficking prevention effort from a ‘D’ to an ‘A.’

The Department of Justice attributed Montana’s commitment to advancing legislative advocacy and outreach efforts to increase their ability to fight modern-day slavery.

This includes bringing perpetrators to justice while taking a victim-centered approach to helping those whose lives have been destroyed by these crimes.

“It is our responsibility to stop trafficking and see that the victims of this crime have a chance for their lives to be restored so that they can live peacefully and productive lives,” Manchala said on her website gloryforashes.org.

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