Growing up with a violent, alcoholic father and a mother who was recurrently beaten by him, author Leslie King was repeatedly traumatized yet did all she could in her childlike way to protect her younger brother and sister. Each time after the violence ceased, Leslie watched as her father pleaded remorse and told his wife he loved her. At the time, Leslie didn’t realize how her worldview—warped and distorted as it was—was being shaped: “I didn’t realize how the dichotomy that was my father would affect so much of my life. I couldn’t figure out how he could hit my mom and love her at the same time. How did love and violence live in the same house? … Those questions about love and violence haunted me for years.”
When Leslie was 8 years old, she was raped again and again by her cousin during the time he lived with her family. Additionally, Leslie’s peers at school bullied her and attacked her because she was biracial. She writes, “I felt like I was a pressure cooker waiting to explode. Every beating I saw my dad give to my mom, every time I was raped, every time I felt the cruelty of other children added to the load of trauma I carried.”
As a teen struggling to navigate her trauma and not knowing what healthy relationships looked like, Leslie was vulnerable and lost, and she looked for love in the wrong places. At 15, she left home and was lured into the dark world of human trafficking and the sex trade in Grand Rapids, Mich. She writes, “On the streets, you either grow up or die. I lived at animal level, struggling to survive. The darkness is something you learn to navigate like the back of your hand.”
When Angels Fight narrates Leslie’s journey into the darkness and then toward love and healing through the power of God. Today, Leslie, founder of Sacred Beginnings, ministers to women in West Michigan caught in sex trafficking and advocates for trafficked women as they engage the legal system.
Each chapter of this compelling, harrowing portrait of human trafficking concludes with a brief letter to readers, addressing people who are or have been trafficked and others who come alongside them, and a list of questions to spur readers on to “join the revolt” against trafficking. Leslie repeatedly urges readers to embrace a stance of empathy, not judgment, as society so often does: “People say horrible things but have no clue that we were once little girls with hopes and dreams taken from us when we were still so young. They have no idea what brought us to this place, the events that caused us to feel like we had no other choice but a life on the streets. We didn’t have the choices so many other people have. Once society beats you down, society becomes just as powerful as the pimps. It’s easier for society to point fingers and judge than even attempt to help or find out the true story.” (Kregel)