Sex trafficking survivor and former Army wife uses her local boutique to fundraise for Guillen’s family

Published: Jul. 3, 2020 at 11:44 PM CDT
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CHINA SPRING, Texas (KWTX) - A local Latina business owner who says the story of Vanessa Guillen hit close to home, organized a fundraiser for the late soldier’s family this week.

"When is enough, enough?" said Sthefanie Welch, owner of The Black Daisy Boutique in China Spring. "When do we stand up for the way that women are treated?"

Welch, a sex trafficking survivor married to a former Fort Hood soldier, says she lived on the Army post for eight years and felt an immediate connection with Guillen.

"I myself went through situations where I didn't know if I would come out alive," said Welch.

Now the owner of her own retail store, Welch uses her small business to stand up for injustices and empower women.

"At the Black Daisy we are all about women, we are all about all women, every color, every size, every background, no matter what you've been through," she said.

Welch started following the soldier's disappearance after hearing about it through news outlets and on social media.

"I saw the story get bigger as the family fought for attention and just some sort of justice," said Welch.

When she heard remains believed to be Guillen's were discovered, Welch was angry and heartbroken.

"When her remains were found I was just devastated," said Welch. "But this isn't about me, this isn't about the Black Daisy, this is about Vanessa, this is about what we can do for her and showing her family that they have their own Army behind them."

Welch decided to start a fundraiser through her boutique by selling t-shirts and bracelets that read "I AM ENOUGH" with 100 percent of the proceeds going to Guillen's family.

"I didn't know how it would do, I didn't know who would stand behind it, and it blew up," Welch said of the fundraiser. "I don't think that any amount of money will ever, ever mend their broken hearts, but I just hope it can just relieve any kind of financial strain from them."

When the fundraiser ended Friday afternoon, Welch's boutique had raised more than $2,100 in 48-hours.

"I think as small biz owners, whether we like it or not, we're leaders within the community," said Welch. "I'm a very, very small business and within two days we raised $2,100--what difference would we make if we really stood up for the things that matter most?"

She says no business--and no woman--is too small to stand up for what's right.

"Women rise up and share your stories and do not let Vanessa Guillen's death be something that we talk about for a few weeks, let's really challenge the system," said Welch.

Welch wants women to 'yell' for reform for Guillen's sake and their own.

"So many women can connect to Vanessa's story because how many of us are hiding stories of sexual harassment, how many of us are hiding stories of sexual abuse, how many of us are scared to come forward in the fear that people won't believe us?" said Welch.

“We live in a society where people just don’t always believe when we come forward, and so the connection with me with Vanessa is so big,” she said.

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