Stephanie Patton has stayed in every Jacksonville hotel between Arlington and Airport Road. She can tell you exactly who you’ll find at those cheap hotels: the homeless, people struggling with drug and alcohol addictions, those needing a room for just a night or a week, the LGBTQ community…
“It’s like a little home of vulnerable people,” Patton said.
It’s also where she met her trafficker.
Although Stephanie Patton currently works as the business development lead at Rethreaded, she is also a survivor of human trafficking. She lived that life for two and a half years. She’s been with Rethreaded for four.
“I got out of human trafficking in 2016 and came to Rethreaded about 18 months after that,” said Patton, who is 33. “I had a normal life once. I grew up in Atlantic Beach, graduated from Fletcher, had a good family, but I’m a recovering alcoholic and after many, many years of alcoholic behavior and destroying the lives around me, my family couldn’t condone my behavior anymore and disowned me when I was 24 years old. They kicked me out and cut me off. They wouldn’t answer my calls and I was essentially homeless after that.”
After meeting her trafficker, Patton spent the next two and half years moving from hotel to hotel living “the life” – consumed by alcohol and numbing what she could.
“I just kind of ran away for all those years,” she said.
But in 2016, something changed.
Patton met another girl who was brought into the hotel room – a girl who had just left a detox program at Gateway, a private non-profit drug and alcohol rehabilitation agency in Jacksonville. Up until then, Patton had no idea there were any community resources available to help her.
“I hadn’t known there were state-funded detox centers,” she said. “I think when we think about detox, we often picture Malibu hospitals, expensive places I could never afford… I ended up going to Gateway to detox shortly after I met that girl. That was in May of 2016, just shy of my 27th birthday.”
Patton was able to benefit from Gateway’s residential detoxification services, which kept her fed and off the streets while she received help for her alcohol addiction.
“It was based off the Twelve Steps, so they had people come in and share,” Patton said. “A lot of those stories were just like mine, but the people telling them were sober and happy. So, I was like, ‘I’m staying.’ They let me go into residential treatment for 90 days and I did everything they asked of me because I had not stayed in the same bed for more than 10 days in a row in what seemed like forever. I hadn’t gone without being scared for the longest time…”
After detox, Patton transitioned to a halfway house, where she gradually began to reconnect with family members and attempt to heal relationships. She got a job and was doing the work she needed to do to stay sober and out of the life. A girlfriend who worked at Rethreaded – an on-site job training program for local women coming out of lives of addiction, violence, human trafficking and prostitution – suggested that Patton should apply. Because she already had a job, Patton dismissed the idea… until her first PTSD attack.
“A man of a larger stature yelled at me, and it just took me back to a place I couldn’t get out off,” she said. “My head was stuck on a reel and I missed three days of work because I couldn’t function. It just brought it all back. When I described what I was feeling to a girlfriend of mine, she said, ‘No, I think this is really what happened,’ and encouraged me to get in touch with the mental health therapist here at Rethreaded.”
Patton realized she needed more than just leaving the life.
“When I came to work here, it was really for the resources,” she said. “It’s been such an important part of my journey – improving my mental health while I was surrounded by my peers. It felt like a safe space. The personal and career development over the past few years has also been amazing. I walked in with waitressing on my resume and by 2021, I was named Florida Survivor Advocate of the Year. This past May, I was one of seven women appointed to the Jacksonville Survivors Leadership Council. It wasn’t that Rethreaded got me the position, they brought the opportunity to my attention and said, ‘We think you should apply for this.’”
Patton is elated to be part of a group of women eager to increase local awareness and prevention of human trafficking. She believes her own journey is a strong testimony that those addicted and lost need not stay that way, that they have something to offer this world.
“I think it’s important to reflect on where I’ve been and what’s happened in between then and now. It’s hard. None of this has been easy, but it’s to make this world a better place for my kids. It’s to help women who’ve been where I’ve been know there is more to life, that more is possible,” Patton said. “Because for the longest time, I felt I was destined to drink myself to death. I thought I was destined to live this life. I didn’t know there were true, fruitful relationships that could exist without being based on what I can do for you and you can do for me. I didn’t know there was real joy to be found in life. To give someone that hope, to help put them on the path to knowing more is possible – that’s what I want to do.”
Atlantic Logistics considers itself a community-conscious Jacksonville business. That means we keep our neighbors, city resources and public spaces at the forefront of what matters most to us. It means conducting ourselves honorably, lifting others up and caring for those in need. Whenever and wherever we can, Atlantic Logistics intends to invest in our locals and the vibrant community they create.
That’s why Atlantic Logistics chooses to do business with Rethreaded in support of their mission. Rethreaded is an on-site job training program for local women coming out of lives of addiction, violence, human trafficking and prostitution. It also operates as a retail store with a fabulously unique collection of hand-crafted items – all made by survivors of human trafficking. Every purchase goes directly toward helping survivors with employment, counseling and career development.
Rethreaded has been a great resource for upscale, corporate gifts that can be tailored to our brand. Knowing the money is going to a great cause is just icing on the cake.