Lockey Maisonneuve delivered her powerful story of tragedy, horror, healing and hope to Kean University students, staff and the general public in the STEM Auditorium March 7. A true jack of all trades, Maisonneuve is an accomplished author, yoga teacher and dog-loving Cranford native. The dedicated wife and mother of two lives a seemingly stable and well-adjusted life, but her background tells a different story.
Author of the critically-acclaimed novel "A Girl Raised By Wolves", Maisonneuve divulged into the deepest and darkest depths of her memories to tell an inspiring memoir of one woman's journey through sex trafficking, cancer, murder and more.
Raised by alcoholics, Lockey and her sister moved often in New Jersey and Florida as a young child, as her parents attempted to outrun landlords, bounty hunters and debt collectors.
Then one fateful day, Maisonneuve's mother put the two sisters unknowingly on a one-way flight to visit their father in Florida, where Lockey's life changed.
Upon moving in with her abusive, alcoholic father in Florida, Maisonneuve, who was 11 years old at the time, was sold into the sex trafficking system.
"My father would sell my body to his friends and to random men, and they would rape me for cash," Maisonneuve said. "He would count the cash right in front of me and laugh."
After years of abuse, Maisonneuve eventually drew the line and was able to settle down on her own back in Cranford, New Jersey, leaving her memories from years of abuse behind with her father in Florida.
Having found a husband and birthing a son, life was finally settling down for Maisonneuve. Years later, things changed upon the birth of Lockey's daughter, as the memories that she had been able to suppress over time had resurfaced.
"I was attacked by flashbacks. I kept having images that I'd feel...I'd feel a punch in my stomach, I'd feel myself being restrained," Maisonneuve said. "I didn't feel this with my son, but I wouldn't let anybody touch my daughter, not even her own father. Then, it all made sense to me. I had been raped by my own father."
The long healing process of reliving horrific memories through various forms of therapy began. Through this 18-month process, Maisonneuve found solitude through yoga.
"I began teaching yoga at local jails. Yes, me teaching yoga in a jail. That's right!" She exclaimed to a laughing audience.
Her relationships with the inmates took time to foster trust and friendship, but she remains both thankful for and fond of the opportunity to work with such a unique group of individuals to this day.
"The inmates are the best group of people I work with," Maisonneuve said. "They're my favorites!"
She also shares the same passion with Newark's Public School System. Maisonneuve elaborated more on her unlikely connection with her younger yoga participants.
"Kids from Newark have mastered the gut instinct," she stated. "You've got to know when to trust your gut. I had that stripped away from me by my father, but I earned it back. It's invaluable."
After traveling down a rough path to reach stability yet again, Maisonneuve finally felt settled down in her life.
"I was not prepared for what was going to come next," she said.
After attending a random check-up, Maisonneuve, now 40 years old, was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer. But the reality check came later during her treatment, when Maisonneuve received news that her mother was viciously stabbed to death in her home.
"At that very moment, regardless of everything I had been through in my life leading up to that point, I felt pre-disastered." Maisonneuve said. "Nothing was going right, and, when things began to look up, they were shut down yet again. It was a vicious cycle."
After participating in multiple interrogations by the police for more information about who killed her mother whilst undergoing chemotherapy, Maisonneuve began to reflect more on her unique situation in life.
"Understand my backstory! Healing is a possible process, an ongoing journey," she elaborated. "Some days are easy and some aren't, but that doesn't mean you give up on the hard days. I was really miserable during those few months, but I came out of it stronger and more understanding than before."
Maisonneuve put a clear emphasis on self-empowerment and the ability to better oneself no matter what the situation. This allowed the audience to resonate and relate to her, even still with the amount of her hectic experiences.
Reflectively, Maisonneuve addressed the audience on the basis of the presentation and the winding road that she took to arrive there.
"My father used to tell me, 'Girls like you don't go to college'. Well, he was right. I didn't go to college," she began with an almost sarcastic tone. "Now look at me. I didn't even go to school, but I'm giving a presentation at one!"
Audience interaction and involvement was an additional focal point of Maisonneuve's presentation, as she left time at the end to field any questions or allow input from the attendees.
Members of the audience were encouraged to elaborate on their takeaways from the presentation, including how they can relate to and use the information at hand.
Mary Costa, a Kean student and future social worker, took away a massive amount of information from the discussion.
"The impact of human trafficking in America was a large takeaway from this program," Costa said. "Additionally, I believe it was beneficial for the audience to hear about human trafficking from a family member. Typically when one hears of human trafficking they think of one being kidnapped by a stranger, and I think it is really impactful to hear a different story."
Monte Morgan, a youth social worker, used the presentation as a tool to help better relate to children he works with on a daily basis.
"Her story was a real story and significant for the at-risk youth I work with daily. Having somebody to relate to is everything [in this field]," Morgan explained.
Allison Gordon, a social worker and Kean student, felt both empowered and motivated by the program.
"You never know what someone is going through, so take a deep breath before reacting to their actions. The fact that we as social workers work with others who go through what she went through...it's important to remain humble and mindful that healing is a process," Gordon said thoughtfully.
"She was so relatable, open and funny," Costa said. "She was willing to answer any question and really interacted with the audience. She also made an extremely taboo and sensitive topic relatable, which is very difficult to do. I'm glad I went!"
Those that would like to learn more about Maisonneuve's story or involvement with the local and national communities can visit her official website.