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Positively Milwaukee: Surviving the streets

Posted at 9:39 PM, Mar 22, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-22 23:26:04-04

A Milwaukee woman is a survivor of rape, addiction, sex trafficking and violence.

But from that horrible journey is born a story of hope and purpose. Nancy Yarbrough's life script is shocking.

"When I was 14 I was raped, and before that I received unwanted touches from family members and people close to me," Yarbrough said. "The promiscuity kicked in after that rape."

Yarbrough is executive diretor of Fresh Start Learning. The social service agency that helps victims of sex trafficking and abuse. She knows first hand the pain victims feel.

"I was that girl on the other side of the tracks, I was that girl that said yes to the pull, the lure, the sexiness of being involved with people who said they loved you, you could make money," she said. "All the affirmations you get, you're so beautiful, I love you, I fell prey to it."

Alcohol and cocaine fueled her dance with darkness in a world where sex was for sale.

"I got pulled in by a lady I thought was my best friend," she said. "She was older, her boyfriend was the biggest drug dealer in Rockford. She had a brother that was a pimp and his brother aspired to make me his project."

But after 15 years and a rough life with the wrong crowd, Nancy got sober.

"I went back to school and got my college degrees I went back to school and did a lot of things of what society says would make me better but one thing college did not teach me is 'streetology.'"

Yarbrough knows she could have become another statistic.

"They say it always ends in jails, institutions or death," she said. "I know I would have been crazy. I know I would have been dead, All the times guns were put to my head, knives were put to my throat choked out to death and almost lost my life. All the times I was using drugs that could have ended my heartbeat."

But today, Yarbrough is a woman of faith.

"God, he made it as a way for me to understand," she said. "He kept me around for a reason."

In her office a comfort wall of memories and messages that inspire. Fresh Start has opened bedrooms for women seeking refuge. The home-like shelter is a place where women discover their inner strength.

"We have brand new pajamas for every lady that comes through this door," she said. "The whole premise is that we want them to take off the old and put on the new. We don't want them to have anything that was out there, we want them to have a fresh start in here."

Women find a path of redemption. And with discipline and hard work, they can unlock the prisons of the streets.

"It's ten years plus that I've been out of any of those things and dedicated my life to the call that God has on it and its been a beautiful journey," she said.

Fresh Start Learning Center Inc. is open Thursday through Monday and accepts donations for new items and money. The shelter can always use donations of new underwear, socks and nightgowns and toiletries. If you would like to donate you can call 414-544-2649 or click here.