It’s been nearly seven years since Lexington resident Megan Madsen was forced to sell herself for sex on Craigslist in another state, but the trauma is still fresh.

Madsen was 21 at the time and coming out of a failed marriage in California. Isolated and broke, she feared going home defeated to her parents in South Carolina, so she applied for a massage job online.

Her first of day of work went fine. Then, a man showed up to run the operation and things quickly spiraled out of control. She still remembers the pink house with bars on the windows where the man took pictures of her in lingerie and then intimidated her in a back bedroom, making sure she was scared enough to stay.

“(People) talk about how I could have walked out the door at any point, but then I talked about how intimidating it was. ... It just gets in your head, the coercion part,” she said. “Then when I did try to leave, he took me and hit me in my face and says, ‘How about I get my gun and shoot y’all?’ ”

Madsen became known as Summer and for three days and nights wasn’t allowed to sleep, performing sex acts on customers the man lined up. Shortly after, one of her “johns” helped her run away, but the experience is one she can’t shake.

She was forced to do things she didn’t want to do, and those memories haunt her, she said. After years of turning to alcohol, she sought help but it hasn’t been easy. She now focuses her efforts on advocacy work, finishing school and raising her daughter with her husband.

“I don’t know how you’re supposed to live a normal life and deal with trauma at the same time,” she said. “It’s hard to find a balance because you go to therapy and when you get out, you’re just numb and you want to sleep, but you have to do all these other things; pick up the kid and dinner and live this normal life, but you don’t feel normal at all. You just feel broken about what happened.”

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