Sana L. Cotten for Seen Out Loud Podcast

Season 2 / Episode 3

In Search of Belonging with Sana L. Cotten, Part One

A woman's journey in uncovering her family history in search of identity and healing

Determined to discover where she came from, Sana L. Cotten recalls her ventures to uncover her past, face her family’s trauma, and reconnect with relatives who are part of her story. Hear from Sana how the process of learning about her birth family after adoption has helped her break generational cycles, shape her identity, and begin a journey to healing through empathy.

Trigger Warning: Descriptions of rape and sex trafficking 


Meet our newest guest, Sana L. Cotten, as she recants the discovery of how she and her twin brother entered the child welfare system because of harmful circumstances as a child through the reading of her case files. 


Sana paints a picture of life as a young child in Bridgeport, Connecticut living with her grandmother, mother, and uncle, all who had substance use disorder, as well as her time in foster care.  

“I remember that I stopped feeling like a little girl, because I’m 2 minutes older than my little brother. I felt this immense responsibility to make sure that he was okay…he would only talk to me…I became his mouthpiece” 


Sana describes the limited relationship she had with her mom as a result of being in foster care and her mother being incarcerated. 


Matt reflects on Sana’s story and how at the time she had an unmet need for relationships. Sana shares a memory of her mother’s attempt to visit Sana at her foster home, which was rejected by Sana’s foster mother. 


Matt asks Sana about her needs as a young child while in foster care experiencing the grief of not having a relationship with her mother. 

“I get it, there were systems put in place because of her actions, so I felt like it was a horrible situation and it’s one that I’ll never ever forget. I have often driven back to that house [her foster home] and sat outside of it while inside my car and just sobbed,” says Sana. 


Sana talks about her experience of being adopted, still yearning for a relationship with her mother, and beginning a journey to find her. 

“This is the thing, when you get into foster care and then you remember you were a foster child and you remember you were adopted, like those memories don’t just go away because a judge banged a gavel on the desk and says now you are this person,” says Sana. 


Sana learns that her birth mother, who was incarcerated, had been longing to connect with the twins. Sana’s adoptive mother agreed to open communication and drove 15-year-old Sana to meet her birth mother for the first time since her removal.

“I was so happy to see her sitting across from me and to look into a face that was so familiar to me, and it looked like my face,” says Sana. “I just remember just saying ‘I love you’ and ‘I miss you’ over and over.” 


Matt asks Sana about the opportunities she had to ask her mother about the details of her childhood. Sana recalls hanging onto light conversation instead because of a desire to be accepted and liked by her mother. 

“I was steering away from ‘Why did you allow me to be sexually abused and trafficked by men?’ Those weren’t questions that I was asking because I didn’t want to accept her. I didn’t want her to not want me,” says Sana. 


Sana shares her experience of developing a relationship with her mother once she was released from prison and why it was brought to a halt.


Sana recalls being 18 years old and pregnant and feeling an urge for her birth mother’s presence after being written off by her adoptive family.


Sana learns of her birth mother’s passing. She recalls being angry and feeling victimized because of the harmful events she endured as a young child.


Sana reflects on impact of the reunion she had with her uncle on her healing journey as she learned more about her family’s history and her mother’s regrets. 

The way I processed things were a little different. The questions I now asked were framed a little differently. It wasn’t ‘mom why did you do that to me’ it was ‘how could you do that to me’,” says Sana. “When I asked ‘how could you’ it required me to get to know who she was as a little girl, and what she experienced, and what her frame of mind was when she found out she was pregnant not only with one child but two children and not feeling like she was really the mom.”


Matt reflects on the nuanced conversation on framing experiences with ‘what happened to you’ versus ‘what’s wrong with you’ with guest Dr. Bruce Perry as it applies to Sana’s journey finding love for the inner child of her mother.



Matt asks Sana about what she’s releasing and carrying on her healing journey today.


Sana shares that she originally intended on learning more about her dad when she reunited with her uncle. On part two of our conversation with Sana we’ll hear more about her journey finding and connecting with her father.

Matt: Hey everybody, this is Matt Anderson, and welcome to another episode of Seen Lut loud, where we bring you the stories and conversations that recognize child welfare transformation starts by seeing families for who they truly are.

If you’ve been listening to the show, you probably know already that we have this vision of keeping families together whenever possible. And for me, that means addressing the fundamental issues that overburden and stress parents, so that removing children isn’t even necessary.

However, this isn’t always possible. We do have an obligation to keep kids safe. And sometimes that requires removing a child from their parents. And these instances, we have to be really clear about the risk and the potential harm that this can cause. And how important I think it is that we, as a system maintain family connections.

In other words, our obligation extends beyond just safety to include some of these fundamental questions that I think all children have, which are, who am I? Where do I belong? And am I even valued?

And so that’s why I want to bring you this story today. Part one of a two-part episode with Sana Latrease. Sana’s has had this incredible journey.

And I think a really interesting place for us to jump into this episode is a few years back when she requested access to her foster care records shortly after putting in that request, one-day Sana gets this phone call from a man who said, I have some big news for you.

Sana: I found your records. And I was like, oh great. You know, so what happens now? Do I come pick them up from you? And he said, well, normally we mail the records to you. but I had an opportunity to read through your records and the information that’s in there is a lot. And so I would like to come see you in person.

And I’m like, oh, okay, So, we chose a date and a location And he says, you know, are you, are you ready? Because once you begin to read these records, you know, you can’t know what in there.

And I was like, yeah, I’m ready. He passes me the envelope and I start to read them right there. And I’m reading page after page of this story of what has happened and how this little girl was her And then I’m finished and I looked up and he’s like, are you okay? And I, and I was like, yeah, like, I can’t believe this is me.

Matt: I asked Sana if she’d be willing to bring some of her records with her to the interview.

Sana: So I do have some of those records here. It may be a little triggering for some people, but this is my truth. This is what I received,

So it says “on October 23rd, 1985, you were taken to Park City Hospital, a children and adolescent health center by your maternal uncle and his girlfriend for immunizations. And at the time you indicated that you had been sexually abused by three men that were in the same apartment building as your birth family.

You were admitted to Park City Hospital for further test. And it was revealed that you had a positive culture test result for chlamydia. In the case file it notes that at birth, you had to go through detoxification from heroin. It was also reported that you were living in a crack and a heroin house with your maternal grandmother, your birth mother, and several other drug abusers.

The home was without plumbing and water and your medical, dental and educational needs were not being met. It was also reported that at the time your birth mother was incarcerated in Niantic prison, and there was not a date to which she would be released. So you were currently in the custody and care of your biological grandmother.”

So that’s some of what is in, um, in our files. And I think that I specifically wanted to talk about those things because I wanted you to be in a place of sitting across from a, a stranger number one, him passing you this file. And on the summary, these are some of the things that it states, and you’re reading this file. That you had to go through detoxification from heroin, that you had a positive, culture test for chlamydia. And you realizing that, although these things occur to you, you don’t at this moment, feel the effects of it and how crazy it must feel to be reading records that are yours. That’s your story. This is the life that you were living as a little girl

Matt: And how old were you Sana when you were sitting across from this social worker handing you your file and you’re reading all of this. How old were you?

Sana: When I received these, I was about 27 years old.

Matt: And you’re, you’re reading this information that you just shared with us and it’s, it paints a pretty clear picture of what was happening. To you as a child. And it’s a pretty scary picture. I wonder was this the first time that you learned some of these details about your childhood and then I mean, what was your response when you first read this?

Sana: So this was the first time it was confirmed for me. And I say that because I had had flashbacks for years of things that happened. And I couldn’t quite put into an account like when it happened or if this was real or if this was my imagination And then when I began to read these records, it was just confirming for me, like, yes, those moments that you had, those flash, they were real.

Those faces that you seen in your nightmares, those were real faces of people. and so it was confirming. And I think that, although it was hard to read because no one wants to read that type of information about themselves. It gave me a sense of peace because it made me feel like I wasn’t crazy.

Matt: So as you’ve already heard, Sana has obviously been through quite a bit. So I asked her to back up a little bit and tell me her story from the beginning.

Sana: I grew up in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Bridgeport is a place that has always been considered very rough. There’s a lot of projects, a lot of drugs, a lot of violence there, and that’s what I grew up in. That type of life. My father was never in the picture as a child at all. My mother, my grandmother, and my uncle were all, addicted to drugs.

My uncle, I believe, was the least addicted. And so he assumed the role of trying to give us some type of normalcy to make sure, like we showed up to doctor’s appointments and dentist appointments because in his mind, as long as he did that Department of Children and Families would not get involved. 

Matt: And so as the records indicated one day her uncle takes her to a doctor’s appointment. It comes out that she was living in harmful circumstances and she was immediately removed from her home and placed into foster care.

Sana: We never went back to our moms. We didn’t, we didn’t actually even see her for a few years after that.

Matt: Yeah, so you’re 5, 6, 7 years old at that time. And you’re in foster care with a family, I suppose that you don’t know. And your mom isn’t there, What do you remember about that experience as just being a little gril.

Sana: I remember that I stopped feeling like a little girl because I’m two minutes older than my twin brother. So I felt this immense sense of responsibility to make sure that he was okay. Even though I was still a child, my brother he kind of just stopped talking. So when we got placed in a foster care, it was like he went mute, and he would only talk to me. So if he was hungry, he would whisper in my ear. If he needed to use the bathroom, he would whisper in my ear if he was scared. And so I became his mouthpiece. And so I felt like I was no longer a kid.

I kind of became a protector, for my brother. And so I remember like walking into this, this home, which was a, it was a big house. Like it was, it was big And, um, and they were very structured. They were a family of faith. There was a mom, there was dad, there were other siblings and foster kids. And so I wasn’t used to like wake up at this time, have breakfast. These are your options. Like breakfast wasn’t even like normal, you know, like you might get breakfast one day before I came into foster care you may not. So like, knowing like, okay, this is supposed to be your safe place now.

Matt: And did it feel safe as a little girl or, or was it too confusing or what, what was that experience like?

Sana: The home in itself felt it felt safe. I didn’t feel like I was going to be harmed. but I didn’t feel safe enough to trust it either because it was like, my life went from one thing to the next, within 24 hours. So I didn’t feel safe enough emotionally and mentally, but physically I felt safe.

Matt: So you’re four years old when you’re placed with this family Is your mom involved at all? She, is she around, do you have memories of her during those, those years? Those early years.

Sana: So for the most part, my mother was still incarcerated at that time. And so we would, take trips up to the prison, to see her, our social worker would, put us in the car, we’d drive like an hour and we would have these visits. And this is why I talk about seasons of like, how I felt about my mom, because this was a season where, I still really loved my mom, even though I went through this abuse, we got taken from her and now, we’re in, going to prison to visit her, but at the prison, we would go and they would have the visits with the children in like a separate building.

So it didn’t look like prison. It just looked different. the inmates didn’t have to wear prison garb. They wore like regular clothes for the visit. You know, there was no handcuffs, no bars, none of that stuff. And you did arts and crafts. There was music, you had lunch. Like it was like as normal as it could get.

And those visits were great, but then the end of the visit would come, right. So you know that like there’s an end to this And so I used to always be scared of the end because the end felt like Groundhog day, it felt like we’d go up there every two weeks and then we’d have to leave her. We’d be pulled away from her. So it was like Groundhog day. Like it just kept happening, it kept happening and it was so sad. Like I would just cry and cry and then cry the whole way home. And then you’d have to kind of readjust.

Matt: I think this is a really important point for us to linger on for just a minute while Sana’s home was clearly unsafe. She still had this really deep connection to her mom. I think an unmet need for a relationship, the need that seemed to be unseen by the people that were in her life.

Sana: Then I remember one time being at home and my brother and I, and our foster siblings were playing hide and seek. And it’s my turn to seek and as I’m running down the stairs to go look for them, the doorbell rings. When I opened the door, it’s my mom. so I go to open the screen door and before I could get the screen door open, it shuts and I get pulled back and it was my foster mother shutting the door.

And I remember my birth mom on the other side of that door screaming. It felt like hours. Like I want my kids, I just need to see my kids. And I was on the other side of the door saying, I want my mommy, mommy, come get me. And so we’re having this dialogue through a door and, my foster mom telling my mom my birth mom, you can’t be here. You have to leave. I’m calling the police. And she did, she called the police and the police came and, they ended up taking my mom away in handcuffs. And I still sat on the other side of that door. And I just cried. Like, it felt like forever, but it to me felt like my mom didn’t forget about me. Like, she still loves me. She did not forget about me and she’s going to come back and  we’re eventually going to go back home. And so I felt that way, but again, there wasn’t conversation after that, it wasn’t like Sana. I’m so sorry that I had to do that. But you know, your mom really can’t be, there was nothing. It was just like my foster mom just disappeared in the kitchen and it was just like, I was left there to just sit in my emotions and didn’t know how to process what I just experienced.

Matt: It gives me goosebumps to hear that story because I think there’s so much, there’s so much pain in it. That’s what I feel. Regardless of the circumstances, you know, of what’s going on with your mom, there’s still something there that’s not being valued and seen and acknowledged as important and it matters. And I wonder how you see that, that moment and what that, like, what did you, what did you need as a, as a little girl?

Sana: I feel like at that time I needed someone to sit on the floor on the other side of the door with me and to just hug me and tell me that it was going to be okay, something that was simple, that’s what I needed. And I think my mother needed help you know. And I get it, there were systems and things put in place now as a result of her actions, so I felt like it just was a horrible situation, but it’s one that I’ll never, ever forget. And I have often driven back to that house, and sat outside of it in my car and just sobbed that door as simple as a door, that door really, was the star of my purpose being born. Because I remember when I got up off that floor on the other side of the door, I said, I’m going to find my mom. I’m going to be with my mom. And that’s when I decided like no system foster care, nothing was gonna stop me. Eventually. I was going to be able to hug my mom and adore was not going to separate me from her.

Matt: And did you, did that happen?

Sana: It did happen. It happened. So you know, I’m into get adopted. And so I had been adopted for, quite a few years. And see, this is the thing when you get into foster care and you remember that you were a foster child, and then you remember that you were adopted, like you don’t just those memories don’t just go away because a judge bang the gavel on the desk and said, now you are this person and these are your parents. And so, when I got old enough, to start searching for my mom I did. So now at this time, like AOL dial-up is just coming out. And so I want to find my mom I didn’t know how. All I knew was what her name was. So I wasn’t getting very far. But one day my adopted aunt my mother’s sister who was in prison. She had, gone to prison and she called my adopted mother and she said, Hey, listen, I am in prison here. And this woman keeps talking about these twins that she gave up for adoption.

 When I asked her what their names were, she said Sana and Tyson. And she said, I didn’t tell her that they were with you, but she’s saying how she really wants to see them. And she’s like, and she’s been diagnosed with aids. And so I really think that you should allow them to come see her.

And so I remember my adopted mom calling us in the room and telling us the story and saying, you know, I’m gonna see what I have to do to get you guys up there. And so she did, she followed through. We were 15 and we went up to the prison, but now it’s a total different experience than when we were in foster care, going up to the prison.

Now we actually have to go through the metal detectors. We have to be searched. You know, this is, this is totally different. Now. you’re just visiting an inmate. And so, they let us in, and now there’s a glass that’s between the three of us.

 and we’re having a conversation and I remember the whole way up there, just like, what am I going to ask her? I have all these questions. I’m going to ask her all this stuff. I’m going to say, like, you know, I was just, I was so ready. And then we got in front of her and I just couldn’t think of anything. I was just so happy to see her sitting across from me and to look into a face that was so familiar to me. And it looked like my face. I just remember just saying like, I love you and I miss you over and over. Like, that’s all I kept talking to him. I didn’t ask her anything. So we had that visit for about an hour. And then after that, she and I began writing back and forth. So now she became like a pen pal to me. She was like my pen pal.

Matt: I wonder you know, were there ever times when you and your mom were able to kind of sit down and talk about some of, some of this stuff that happened to you as a kid? Knowing those were some of the things that happened at the beginning of your life with your, with your mom?

Sana: So Um, while even as a young child, I knew that things had happened to me. those things were the last things that I thought to ask her. I really just wanted her to want me. By bringing up things that were sad or bad, she wouldn’t want me. This morning, again, I was reading through one of the letters that she had written me while she was in prison. And in the letter she was asking me like, you know, do you still have that boyfriend? How was he treating you? You know, you should always make sure that men treat you well. Like that’s what she was writing to me. And I was like 12 at the time, but it made me realize the conversations that I was having with her, that I was sharing about like a boyfriend or someone that I liked, or she asked me, you know, how did I do all my math test? Like those were the conversations that we were having. I was steering away from. Why’d you allow me to be sexually abused and trafficked by men? You know, I, those weren’t questions that I was asking because I didn’t want to upset her. I didn’t want her to not want me.

Matt: I mean, it makes sense because you have needs that you want. And in this case you wanted your mom to be asking you about these kinds of things. You wanted to be connected with her, you know, where she’s interested in what’s happening in your life, because that’s what kids want from their parents. And to bring up all these other things, I think everybody knows intuitively well, that is the potential to kind of really disrupt our ability to have a relationship. 

Sana: So we became pen pals for a while and then she got out of prison and she asked my mom if she would be able to come pick us up for the weekend my mom agreed. And so she would pick us up on a Friday after school and we would go back to Bridgeport and, stay with her and just have a good time, just eat whatever, watch TV. She was staying with a friend of hers and she would bring us back home on Sundays. And it just felt it was such a good balance of like, I get to be with my mom, but I also, you know, I’m in this safe home where I’m getting fed and clothed and educated and all this stuff, but it was such a good balance.

And then, one visit, she picked us up as usual. We went to Bridgeport, we had a great time, but then on the next day, Saturday, she brought us to this house and she was like, I’ll be right back. And she left and she never came back. And so I had to find a payphone and call my mom my, my adopted mom. And tell her like, describe to her where we were and she and my dad came and picked us up and we never went back to see my mom again.

Matt: Wow. you never saw her again after that.

Sana: I, saw her again. but not as a child. So the next time that I would see my mom would be in her casket.

Sana: I was 18 years old. I was pregnant with my son and I remember this urge of like, I need my mom. Like I’m about to become a mom for the first time. And by this time my adopted family had kind of written me off because I wanted to know who I was and where I came from. And so by this time,I was living in Bridgeport, had gotten into a relationship with a gentleman and, was not having any communication with my adopted family.

And so I re I called the prison and I just asked, if they had an inmate by this name still there, and they’re like, yeah, she’s still here. But you know, she’s really sick. And, we don’t have anywhere to release her to. And so I was like, I’ll take her, she can come stay with me. I’ll take her. And so, after a few days, it was approved and they released. The day that she was released, I had a doctor’s appointment. So her father, my grandfather went to the prison to pick her up. He picked her up while I was at the doctor’s appointment. When I finished with the appointment, I came back to his house.Cause that’s where she was supposed to come back to. And she wasn’t there. And so I’m like, well, where’s she at? And he’s like, oh, she went to go see a friend. And I was like, Is she coming back here? And he’s like, yeah, she’ll be back later. So I stayed the night. She never came back. So I went home and I was calling her, calling her, calling her phone.

She would not answer the phone. So finally I went back to my grandfather’s house and while I was there, she called. I just like lost it. And I’m like, how could you do this? Like, I haven’t even seen you. Am I not important to you? Like, why would you not come see me? And I remember her saying like, I don’t know who you think you’re talking to. I’m the mother, you’re not the mother. And so we get into this argument on the phone and she hung up on me and I was so mad. I just was so mad. I kept calling the number back. She wouldn’t answer the phone. And so a couple of days later I was back at the doctors cause I was in a high risk pregnancy. And when I finally got home, I checked my caller ID on my phone and I realized there was like a ton of missed calls from my cousin. So I finally call her back and she’s like, Hey, I’m outside, come outside. I gotta tell you something. So I go outside and as I walked to the car, I just see this look on her face, where it, you could just tell, she didn’t want to have to say anything. And I said, what, what is it? My mom? And she was like, yeah. So what, she’s dead, like kind of joking, like what? She’s dead. And she said, yeah, she just died an hour ago. And so, while I was at my doctor’s appointment, my mother was across the street in the emergency room. Taking her last breath. And so the next time I seen her was in her casket at the funeral.

Matt: man.

Sana: After she died is when I got angry. It was like, it just came out of nowhere. She, I got very angry and I, and I went through this, this period where it was like, I was the victim. And this is what you did to me. And because you did this to me, I became a teen mom. And because you did this to me, I’m in an identity crisis. And I don’t really know who I am. And because you did this to me, I don’t have this great life and this great education, and this is all because of what you did to me.

Those were feelings that I had. even at the time that I got these records, I was still angry. And so when I received these records, it just gave me more ammunition to be angry. Because like, oh my gosh, I was addicted to heroin. Like, so you were doing drugs. You know, she just became the reason for every single problem that I had endured. I want to make this make sense, because as a child, you know, something happened to you that wasn’t right, but you don’t have the words for it. Right. So, back then it was just, you know, I’ve been hurt by these men. And I know that as I got older, the flashbacks started. So as a teenager, I started to have flashbacks of the men and like literally the feeling of, of them being on top of me, like I could feel it. So that started when I was about a teenager. And I suppressed them. I just kind of pushed them to the back because again, I was battling with, is this, did this really happen? Or, or am I imagining this? But then when I was in my twenties and I opened my records, it was confirmed that yes, these things did happen. Here’s the records, here’s what occurred. 

In 2020 is when I had the conversation with my uncle, which is my, my mother’s brother. He went into more detail about what happened you know, how my mother felt like she didn’t have a say, because she had endured the same thing my grandmother had did it to her.

Matt: So at this point in the conversation, Sana started to tell me about meeting with her uncle Jesse. And as it turns out, reconnecting with our uncle was a major turning point in her journey. And so I asked her to back up a little bit and tell me how they got reconnected. She told me that she found him through a mutual connection and then Sana shared her phone number. 

Sana: And, a couple hours later, I get this North Carolina number on my cell phone. I was at work and I, I was like, I’ll be back. I worked at a school and I ran out the school and I answered the phone and I’m like, hello? And he’s like Sana? And I was like, uncle Jesse. And he was like, oh my God. And he just starts crying. And he’s like, I thought I was going to die before I met you. He told me he was in hospice. And so I was like, wow, I need to get to North Carolina. And so a week later I was in North Carolina

I was there for a full day, we just sat there and we just talked he was just very open and very honest. And, it was a lot of him releasing this information that he had held for so many years and felt so guilty because again, he was the one that brought me to that appointment and then never seen me again.

Matt: One of the first things Sana learned from her uncle Jessie was that when her mom got pregnant, she had actually planned on having an abortion. In fact, that’s what Sana’s mom told her dad. And soon after that Sana’s, his dad was out of the.

My uncle let me know that my mom really did want to have the abortion. She did not want to bring kids into the world. She didn’t feel like she was ready for kids. he said, she didn’t want us to go through what they had went through with their mom, my grandmother. He went on to say that my grandmother was extremely manipulative and she kind of convinced my mom into having us and telling her that, you know, she would take care of us.

And essentially that’s what happened. My mom had us, my grandmother kind of assumed custody it wasn’t like, these are my kids and I need to protect them. It was, it was almost like these are my little sister and brother, and they’re just with my mom type of a situation.

And, he did say that, when, while she was in jail, she, and she really began to sober up, like after the adoption went through, she started to really regret everything and not taking the time to know us and protecting us. And he said that she, lived with that, that guilt for, for years that like, she didn’t stand up to her mom, and protect her kids.

He told me the story of when he left the hospital that day. And he had to go back home and tell my grandmother, like they’re not coming back and how she was so angry at him. And, you know, it was saying things like, you know, you’re the reason that we lost the kids and how could you do this? And, you know, you’re an idiot and all this stuff. And he held onto that

Matt: Wow. Yeah.

Sana: And so as I began to heal a lot of that bitterness and anger that I felt began to dissolve. the way I saw things and the way I process things were a little different. The questions that I now asked were framed a little differently. It wasn’t mom, why did you do that to me? It was, how could you do that to me? Well, when I asked, how could you, it required me to get to know who she was as a little girl and what she experienced and what her frame of mind was when she found out she was pregnant with not just one child, but with two children. And not feeling like she was really the mom that her, her mother was really our mom and she just was the carrier. Exploring all of those different things made me start to fall in love with my mom, because I felt bad for this young lady who, although some of the things we endured were similar. No one ever removed her from the care of her mother and gave her another opportunity with another family and a new, chance at life. She just grew up with all of that pain. And so I, I fell in love with not the grown woman that my mother became but the child that she started out as.

Matt: You know, we’ve had this conversation a number of times on this podcast of this switch from, what’s wrong with you to what happened to you? That little nuance and change in question it’s, it’s huge. So what happened to your mom as a little girl? Now you’re relating to your mom from a place of compassion and that, changes everything. It doesn’t mean that what she did, this is what gets complicated, right. And hard. It doesn’t mean what she did was, was right, or excusable, or that she should be not held accountable but that’s not the end of the story. That’s not the end of the conversation, for you to be able to get to that place of what happened to her as little girl that would put her in this place where she would be able to do this, that’s, that’s a place of compassion and It is freeing. I think, I mean, I think that it’s a, it’s a freeing and you can move to a place of, of love through being compassionate to another person.

Sana: Exactly

Matt: I want to ask you something to kind of go back to something you said a little while ago about the anger that came up after your mom died. That was maybe one of the first times that you felt this kind of anger And I wonder, you know, where you are today with that, you know, what, what do you, what do you carry? What have you released? You know, as you’re kind of going through this healing journey, sitting here today. 

Sana: Honestly, at the end of the day, I can’t change anything that happened. On my maternal’s mother’s side, everyone’s dead. My grandmother’s dead. My great-grandmother, my mother, my uncle. I’m the only female that’s alive. On my maternal mother’s side and I get to rewrite the story, my kids, my grandkids, my great-grandkids. They won’t know the trauma of being sex trafficked. They will not have endured any of that. That the curse, the generational curse of those things stopped with me. I was the last one to endure sex trafficking on my mother’s side. And so I get to rewrite this story.

Matt:  Sauna was able to learn a lot from her uncle about her past, about her childhood. And I think it’s probably safe to say that she was incredibly grateful for the opportunity. 

Sana: And he ended up dying in 2021, almost a year to the day that I met him he died. And I almost felt like because I’m a woman of faith, that God allowed me to go there when I did to free him from that. And for him to die peacefully.

Matt: The thing is sauna had not even gone to visit her uncle and hospice that day to learn all this stuff about her mom.

Sana: The first thing. I just wanted to know who my dad was.

Matt: Sana’s searched for her dad. It’s a whole nother story and we’ll get to that on the next episode of Seen Out Loud.

Isaiah: Just wow. Sana is such an incredible person. And if you were intrigued by part one of her story, then be sure to tune in to part two. In our next episode, if you are enjoying this podcast, please consider contributing to the show. You can find the donation link in our show notes below, but before I log off, I want to say thank you to our incredibly faithful team that puts together each and every episode that you all have come to love. Our executive producer is Michael Osborne, mixing, mastering and sound designed by Morgan Honaker. Our composer is Christian Haigus and our creative team members are April Dillon and Candice Kears. I’m Isaiah Strozier I want to say thank you for listening and I’ll see you guys in the next episode.



Sana L. Cotten

Sana L. Cotten is the Founder and President of Unashamed Inc., a 501(c)3 non-profit organization which fosters emotional health in disadvantaged families that have experienced incarceration, foster care, and teen pregnancy. Sana has a passion for advocacy work and youth within the foster care system. She has worked alongside the Department of Children and Families (DCF) in various roles including as a QPI (Quality Parenting Initiative) Champion and as a speaker and for the Queen Esther Initiative. Sana is a published author whose mission is to liberate others to own their truth, find their voice and boldly live unashamed.