Dee Clarke, photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette, PPH Staff Photographer

Our Story

Dee Clarke founded SSUSA in 2015, following involvement with Maine’s burgeoning anti-trafficking movement. Clarke’s experiences sharpened her belief that survivors must be driving solutions. Survivor Speak was formed to push the movement to address root causes of what we call ‘sexploitation’:  systemic poverty, racism, and misogyny. SSUSA lives out its mission via a combination of outreach, education and training, legislative policy advocacy, and intensive survivor mentorship and leadership development. The programming centerpiece is the Survivor Advocacy and Leadership Training (SALT) program. SALT follows a multi-faceted curriculum that enables survivors to begin healing, build fellowship, and develop into survivor-leaders.

For more than 16 years, Dee Clarke has been organizing, educating and empowering adults and youth to speak out for public policy that affects their lives. She has organized groups to march, demonstrate, collaborate, dialogue, create, to have and give voice, and to be at the table of decision-makers. Dee is known for her diplomacy and grace, from meeting with governors and legislators to interacting directly with sex-trafficked and exploited women.  

Dee comes by her wisdom from experience. She grew up in a severely abusive environment in a Boston housing project, in and out of foster care from ages 5 to 8.  By 12 years old, she was being sex trafficked by a pimp and finished growing up in the combat zone as a go-go dancer and stripper.  As a young mother she sometimes ended up homeless and in shelters while working several jobs and relying on soup kitchens, food stamps and food boxes.

Dee shares: "I know this life inside out. I know what it is to not have a sense of self, to not know I matter, to not know comfort. I know what it is like to be unable to say, ‘no, leave me alone’. I know what it is like to not have a plan for a better life; I did not know what a better life was. I have experienced PTSD, disassociation, poverty, and exploitation. I was a survivor longer than I was not and a victim long before a pimp got to me at age 12. I know how stereotyping fosters self-oppression and exclusion."

Read more about Dee and SSUSA in this Spring 2018 "Pearls of Portland" interview!