COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Marlene Carson knows all too well the things that went on in the now-closed Knights Inn on State Route 161 in north Columbus.
Carson says she was first exploited for sex at the age of 15 and that it went on for years.
“This place right here was a prostitution haven and there was a lot of abuse that happened right here in this hotel – a lot of abuse,” Carson said.
The Knights Inn was shut down by the city in 2014 after years of documented criminal activity.
Carson credits a local minister for helping her break away from her life of prostitution.
She now operates a nonprofit called Rahab’s Hideaway–a comprehensive residential treatment center for victims of the sex trade.
Earlier this week, more than two dozen women were arrested on the west side of Columbus on prostitution charges. They went to jail but were also provided face-to-face meetings with social workers, mental health counselors and health care professionals.
Carson says one of the biggest hurdles to getting a prostitute to accept help is trust.
“These girls, as much as they probably want help, it’s hard to trust people once you’ve been let down or been deceived – you don’t even trust your own instinct,” Carson said.
Carson says she was a slave to her pimp who controlled her with fear and physical abuse. Most of those arrested this week are slaves to their drugs.
“When she can come back to her real mind, not a drug-addicted mindset but to her own mindset, and realize ‘there was something about me that I liked and I want to work on just that little piece…’that would give her hope,” Carson said.
Rahab’s Hideway is a two-year residential program – which scares some women away, according to Carson. But she says she expects her clients to relapse at least once and she’s OK with that – she’s been there and done that.