*Trigger Warning: This article contains sensitive content that references trafficking, sexual assault, and child abuse.
The night has always been frightening for me. My parents divorced when I was quite young, and as a little child I would cry throughout the night while at my dad’s home—mainly because I desperately desired to be with my mom.
By the time I was in first grade my father had already remarried and added three new siblings to our lives. My mom had been caught embezzling money and was sentenced to spend time in jail. My dad was granted full custody and what I thought was my worst nightmare started to become my reality.
I grew up in the “Bible Belt” region of the United States in the most upper-class neighborhood. No one knew the physical, sexual, verbal, and psychological abuse going on within the walls of our 3,300 square foot home.
Long before the night I was trafficked, my step-sister abused me. One night, when I was 8 and she was 9, she pulled out a porn magazine hidden under her bed. My sister and I were only two years apart, yet she had the knowledge of a middle-aged man when it came to sexuality. I vividly remember sitting on our bedroom floor as she showed me these pictures, illuminated by the less conspicuous bathroom light.
It was like tiny little hooks were coming from the pages. It caught my eyes. It got inside me.
My Sister Sold My Virginity
One evening, when I was 12, my step-sister and her friends were going to stay at someone’s house for a slumber party. Oddly, I was invited to go with them.
The girls packed my bag and off we went. We pulled up to an apartment. Inside there was no furniture except for one couch. We dropped our bags and immediately my sister and her friends pulled out their cigarettes.
As smoke filled the tiny apartment building, a man came into the apartment. He picked up all our bags, threw them into the back of a truck, and told us to load up. We packed into his one-row truck like a bunch of sardines and stopped at a hotel. There were probably 25 or more girls and women in this one room.
In walked my sister’s boyfriend. Even though she was only 14, she had been dating this man in his twenties for a while and I knew him well.
Grabbing me by the arm, he took me outside and told me I was to listen closely and not to misbehave. I was strip-searched and all my belongings were taken from me. That night I was taken to hotel after hotel. Men were lining up to pay for a virgin. I was twelve years old.
The Rules of “The Game”
At that moment, my sister’s boyfriend became my pimp. He laid out what would be required of me, night after night, making it clear that he owned my body, and that he would kill me if I didn’t comply.
He then instructed me how my future “pick-ups” would work, and how a car would be waiting at my house after I received a call from him. I was to open my window, climb out, and close it just enough to where it wouldn’t be noticed. Once I arrived at the car, I would be given a blindfold or covering of sorts. Taking it off was not an option.
Regular beatings instilled constant fear in me and I gave up all hope of escape. By day, I attended middle school and played sports—and by night, I was raped.
I had no idea money was being exchanged. It wasn’t until maybe a week or two later that my pimp told me I was making him lots of money. When I asked what he meant he said, “men were lining up to see the show.”
By day, I attended middle school and played sports—and by night, I was raped.
My entire world had been flipped upside down because of evil and wicked people. I was placed in the “game” by my sister and her boyfriend, and for the next two years of my life this was my nightly routine. For me, middle school was filled with cheerleading, tennis, soccer, and trafficking.
The Brutality of Trafficking
Every night it was that same process, but each night felt more terrifying. To make it worse, I felt I was to blame—that I was in this situation because I said yes to going with my sister to her “sleepover.”
Beatings were a regular part of my life. One of the first times I was beaten was because I took the blindfold off before my pimp told me to.
Soon the beatings began to become more brutal. One night I was dragged out the door onto a porch and down the steps by my pimp all while still naked. He pulled me by my hair through the dirt and beat me outside of the house.
I hid things pretty well. I had a cheer competition once where my bruises and cuts were showing in the tank top we had to wear. One of my teammates asked me about it and I said I had gotten into an accident on our four wheeler. No one asked anymore questions.
But the cuts and bruises were the least of my worries. The psychological toll that it placed on me was overwhelming. My mind was constantly racing. I was always on alert and every day’s abuse felt like it was the first time. Though what I suffered was a regular part of my life, it never felt “normal.” After all, my life was constantly threatened by johns (sex buyers) and by my pimp.
Guns were regularly pulled on me or put in my mouth. The security guys who were watching the door would come into the room and search for things a john might have left that could help me. They’d search me (even though I was normally naked), the side table, closet, and bathroom. One guy would always have his gun on me while the other searched. Johns would pull out a gun if I didn’t want to do certain sex acts or to see if it would scare me.
A Police Officer Bought Me For Sex
One night a police officer walked into my room. I dropped to my knees and thanked him. I begged him to help me. He grabbed me by the arms, placed me on the bed, and told me to undress. It was as though I could feel my heart stop. Shock does not even begin to explain the feeling I felt. Terror ran through me. I knew then I was not safe.
I never thought about escaping. As strange as it may sound, I “followed the rules” of my pimp mostly. Or I tried to. At one point I did think about telling someone, but somehow my pimp knew. He put a dead cat in our driveway and I knew it was from him. Just something in my gut told me. He later informed me that it was him and threatened to kill my family. After that I was too afraid to say anything.
My Pimp was Welcomed into My Home, then He Raped Me
My pimp knew my family personally and closely, so he knew when we had dinners, events, parties, drama, fights. Many times, he was present for these events. He took this time to groom me and abuse me.
One particular Christmas Eve my parents were having their annual Christmas party at our house. They had invited their coworkers, neighbors, friends, etc. Our home was loud with chatter and music. It was such a large gathering that we tended to ourselves most of the night.
I had walked into my room to leave my sweater, and before I knew it he was in my bedroom with me, alone. He was excited and panting. He raped me in my own home while my parents were home and our house was filled with guests.
He whispered in my ear how he would kill me if I made a sound. I believed him. Somehow I was silent. When he was done he’d dress and then leave as though nothing had taken place.
This wasn’t a one-time incident, but happened many times in my own home. Nothing in my life was predictable. Our home was ridden with abuse and now I was owned by this man. I thought I’d never get away.
My trafficking experience was long and deeply traumatic, but freedom finally came through rather unusual means.
He raped me in my own home while my parents were home and our house was filled with guests.
It wasn’t until my family decided to move out of our home where we had been for so many years that I saw a glimmer of hope. My step-mother became sick and began dealing with severe epilepsy.
How I Escaped My Trafficker at Age 14
Due to my step-mother’s illness we were constantly back and forth between our new Louisiana home and her apartment in Dallas, Texas. Her well-educated team of doctors had specified that she get a small place there for her treatments.
Even though my family life was still very much chaotic, I was becoming difficult to locate. I was no longer being picked up during the night.
But my pimp changed his tactic.
I would be at a softball game and would see him sitting in the stands or standing by the dugout while I was playing—it was utterly terrifying, especially since I had gotten accustomed to him not calling. I’ll never forget the feeling of terror that shot through me in those moments.
He’d pick me up and take me on “dates” with men. He would tell me to tell my parents I had practice or club meetings after school in order for me to fulfill my duties for him. Some days he would pick me up and take advantage of me simply because he was able to.
I thought he had figured out a way to have me back in his game again. But my deliverance soon came in an unusual way.
My pimp mainly knew where I was because of my step-sister. One day, her mother decided she would attend school in Dallas so she could be with her. So slowly, as our lives changed and became more unknown, so did my whereabouts. I began traveling for sports and being more involved in school. During the summer I would sign myself up for summer ball or tennis camps in order to fill my schedule up.
One thing I loved about this was that in order to play I had to be at school and at my practices. If someone wasn’t in attendance the coach would call the parents. It formed a sense of safety for me.
Once my step-mom and dad divorced, I became the only child in our home, so my dad was constantly wanting to know where I was. I was in every sport I could join in and outside of school and every club I could be a part of during school. By the time I was in high school, my pimp was no longer calling. I was finally free from his clutches and the trafficking that had defined my whole world.
The Road to Healing After Being Trafficked
I went to a lot of therapy over the years. It wasn’t a good experience for me until I started meeting with three amazing women from Exodus Cry: Kezia (my therapist), Helen Kim (my social worker), and Helen Taylor (my art teacher and Exodus Cry’s VP of Impact).
I felt safe there, and that I could truly trust them. I could laugh with them. These were heartfelt relationships with personable, compassionate women—a stark contrast from the cold, analyzing and critique-laden therapy sessions I had experienced in the past. That’s when I began healing from all of this.
Today, I am a healthy and joyful person. I’m living proof that healing from extreme trauma is possible! It’s taken so much time and a lot of learning to get here. I now know that there are people who really care what happens to others.
To my knowledge, my pimp was never caught—and neither was my step-sister. And, after spending years processing my story in therapy, I have come to believe my parents knew what was going on back then.
The System of Sex Trafficking
As I reflect on all of this, it becomes obvious that there was a lot of cunning strategy and a much larger system at play. My pimp only trafficked me. Not my sister. They don’t always take any girls they can. Traffickers and pimps are not flighty. They have plans, teams, deals, and so many connections: hotels who don’t charge them, gas stations where they get free fuel, dealerships that sell them cars under the table.
I remember nurses would come in and patch us up if needed or clean up after a night. A gynecologist came and showed me how to take birth control. One time my trafficker hired a tutor for someone because of their school grades. He had all sorts of people who would help him. It was like he had a connection with anything. He even knew the judges.
This system is so much more integrated than just johns, girls, and pimps.
I believe we have to be strategic and creative when it comes to combating this injustice. We need laws that target sex buyers and also that punish those who are accessories to commercial sexual exploitation. The more people we make aware the more ideas and aid we can gain. I am fully confident that if pimps can find ways to adapt and thrive then so can the abolition movement.
Not everyone has to do intervention or outreach work in order to help. You can share the truth about the commercial sex industry with one person who doesn’t know. You can talk to your pastor. Get your church involved. Do your own research to find ways to get involved and work with an organization near you. Volunteer at the local Boys and Girls Club. There are endless possibilities.
There are girls like me still out there who need you.
For the extended version of my story, CLICK HERE.
*Exodus Cry actively serves and extends freedom to sexually exploited women, face to face, through our Intervention team. Working with some of the nation’s best therapists, we also provide trauma-informed therapy for women and girls who have been trafficked. In 2021 alone, we provided 300+ hours of specialized trauma therapy to women who had been sexually exploited through sex trafficking and pornography.
After just three months, survivors reported, on average:
– 37% decrease in anxiety
– 51% decrease in depression
– 37% decrease in self-harm
– 28% decrease in substance-based coping
– 39% decrease in suicidal thoughts
We are expanding this program to be able to fund more than 500 hours of trauma-informed therapy for survivors in 2022. Give today to help fuel this work and forever change the lives of trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation survivors.
For more true stories from trafficking survivors check out our film Nefarious on YouTube.