Tina Kadolph’s earliest childhood memory is being raped at 4 years old.
Instead of being comforted by a loving mother, she recalls her mother turning her back and leaving her to the mercy of a strange man. Instead of playing hide-and-go-seek, Tina remembers hiding under the kitchen table and hoping the man wouldn’t find her. Instead of wishing that she could have ice cream for dinner, Tina’s earliest wish was to die so that the pain would go away.
“That is my earliest memory of being raped, but people could have done things earlier because I have a lot of memories blocked out from the trauma of it,” Kadolph said.
Kadolph’s mother was a prostitute who conducted her business from the California home she shared with her small daughter. Once her mother realized that men would pay to have sex with a child, Tina was continually sold and raped until she was 15.
“I would wrap my arms around her legs, begging her to not go, and she would unwrap me and toss me back and say that I had to stay,” Kadolph said. “And she would leave me.”
When Kadolph got older, her mother would drug her to keep her from fighting back against her rapists.
“There were a lot of men in our house coming and going,” Kadolph said. “I would be trying to sleep at night and hear her screaming, and then men would come out of her room and come into my room.”
She attempted to commit suicide multiple times as a young teenager.
“I just would give up and wanted to just die and didn’t understand why I had to keep living this life that I was living and I didn’t know how to get out of it.”
When she was 15, Kadolph ran away and began living on the streets. She met a man who promised to give her a better life. As it turned out, the man was a drug dealer who took
Kadolph to another state and became her next abuser.
“I was looking for someone to just take care of me and help me and get me out of the life I was living,” Kadolph said.
After three years, a neighbor heard the man loudly threatening to kill Kadolph with a gun to her head. The police came and arrested him, making Kadolph free for the first time in her life.
But she still struggled to overcome years of psychological, physical and sexual abuse.
“You want to blame yourself sometimes, and I know I used to think that I must have done something wrong that would make my mom allow that or that men would do that to me,” Kadolph said.
But when Kadolph was at a party one night, she met a man named Carl who gave her his number and offered to listen to her story and provide support if she ever needed it.
The next day, instead of taking her own life, Kadolph went to lunch with Carl. She told him everything and was shocked by his caring response.
“He was just so nice, and no guy had ever been nice to me in my entire life,” Kadolph said. “He sent me one red rose with a note saying that I was precious and valuable and not to let anybody ever think I wasn’t.”
Tina and Carl have been married for 35 years.
The two started a family, having two daughters despite concerns that Kadolph’s history could cause complications with getting pregnant.
Kadolph finally began to live a normal life, but she still had not learned to cope with the trauma of her past.
When her children were in first and third grades, Kadolph went through an intense bout of anorexia, something she had struggled with since she was 14.
“At that time, I just completely quit eating. I had gone 45 days without food, and I couldn’t walk anymore,” Kadolph said.
Weighing under 70 pounds, a friend realized the danger and took Kadolph to the hospital, where she was admitted in the psychiatric ward. Only allowed to stay there for three days, Kadolph was determined to kill herself once released.
“I begged the psychiatrist there, ‘Please don’t send me home because if you send me home, I’m not going to live. I want to die,’” Kadolph said.
In the car on the way from that hospital to one that would let her stay longer, Kadolph tried to jump out while Carl was driving down the interstate. He grabbed her wrist in time to pull her back in the car and shut the door.
“I was just crying and screaming,” Kadolph said.
But once she was admitted into the second hospital, she started seeing a therapist who helped her understand what she was feeling and remember some of the trauma she had blocked.
“I didn’t know what was wrong with me or why I was wanting to kill myself in this way. I knew little pieces, but I didn’t know the depth of what had happened to me,” Kadolph said. “So through therapy, they started bringing it up, and then I was like, ‘I don’t want anyone to know about this. I don’t even want to know about this.’”
For years, Kadolph kept her past to herself, not even revealing the story to her entire family.
She and her husband founded Love Missions, a nonprofit for victims of human trafficking in 2000. But still, Kadolph was reluctant to share her own story.
“It took a while because I was trying to run from my past because I didn’t want people to know about it,” Kadolph said.
It wasn’t until she met a 13-year-old in a village halfway around the world in Guyana, South America, that she found a reason to share her personal experiences.
The girl had been trafficked and was telling Kadolph that no one was ever going to love her.
“She said, ‘Nobody will ever marry me or want me because everybody knows what happened to me,’” Kadolph said. “And I said, ‘No that’s not true because God gave me
Pastor Carl and I know he will give you somebody too.’”
Slowly, Kadolph began to share her story with more people. She saw the impact she could make by speaking out and giving hope to other human trafficking victims.
“All I want to do is help other little girls like me and let them see that it is possible to survive this thing, this torture that we endured,” Kadolph said.
Kadolph became increasingly willing to share her story in person, but was still wary about the effect going public might have on her mother.
“I kept thinking as I was speaking out, “I’m a Christian and I want to love and have forgiveness in my heart,’” Kadolph said. “Being in her seventies, how does that do her justice to be speaking out about what she did when I was a child? How does that show her God’s love?”
But when Kadolph’s mother died a few months ago, she not only felt freer to speak out, but she also felt a sense of final release from her trafficker.
“It’s a weird thing, when someone has done those kinds of things to you, you have a weird attachment to them,” Kadolph said. “And I still kind of have that with my mom, but now she has passed away, and I feel a lot of freedom.”
Now, Tina and Carl are focused on their children, ministry and coffee shop, Palate Coffee, which they opened three years ago. All profits from the shop go toward their efforts to raise awareness, help victims and stop the problem of human trafficking through Love Missions.
The Kadolphs take frequent trips to Guyana, where they are building a safe house for young girls.
Having completed treatments for breast cancer in September, Kadolph is in remission and excited to get back to doing what she now knows is her purpose in life.
“It’s not about myself,” Kadolph said. “It’s about others and letting them know what God has done in my life to hopefully bring others to Christ and let them know there is hope.”