Survivor of Domestic Violence and Sex Trafficking
Survivor of Domestic Violence and Sex Trafficking
As the survivor of domestic violence and sex trafficking, were you ever abused as a child?
Yes, I was molested and raped several times before I was 18. I was raised by a single mom who worked long hours to support us and a doting grandmother who also lived with us. Both of them were devoted to me, but as a teen, I would occasionally sneak out of our apartment to have fun with my friends. I was initially raped by my friend’s older brother and two other men who lived at the same apartment complex. The three men knew what they were doing and in my 13-year-old naïveté, I honestly thought those men were safe and wanted to be my friends. One of them worked at the restaurant where my mother was a waitress and that was all the assurance I needed to think he would never hurt me. I cried and pleaded with them to stop. I was in shock after the assaults. From that point on, my ability to sense danger was damaged and I did experience other assaults.
How long were you in your recent abusive relationship?
On and off for about 8 years.
What did you think when your partner first told you that he wanted you to become a sex worker?
I thought he must be joking. I laughed because I had a job, an apartment and had just bought a car. I was living a fairly average life taking care of my family. About 18 months later, due to the toxic relationship and my poor decision making, I experienced a financial crisis. I was unemployed, bills were piling up and I was going into debt, so he suggested it once again. Our relationship dynamic was built upon my magical thinking of us someday having a wonderful life together. I needed his love for my fulfillment. I thought he was a genius and I accepted everything he told me as truth. I loved hearing him talk about the life we would have together. He continued to pressure me to do sex work with the promise that he truly loved me, he’d protect me, I wouldn’t have to do it for long and most importantly, me doing sex work would keep us together. I replaced all that knew was wrong with an illusion of a beautiful future with him.
How did you reconcile his expectation of you becoming a sex worker with who you are as a mother and a woman?
He is very persuasive. He presented it as us working as a team – two people who love each other, who just needed to make some sacrifices in order to move forward together. Of course, in the end it was really only I who gave up everything I owned as well as friends, family and even myself. When I told him how wrong it felt, he told me to stop complaining, that he would be working soon and he loved me. I loved him and wanted to be with him so much that I was willing to do whatever it took to ensure a future with him.
What has enabled you to end the long-term cycle of violence?
First of all, as my counselor reminds me, this is a process and not a product! It’s been a very long process and I still have work ahead of me. It began by separation from the abuser. After he abandoned me on the streets, pregnant and penniless, I found a haven in a local nonprofit set up for pregnant and homeless women. I was able to reside in a home that was filled with love, kindness and compassion. The staff spoke to me with respect and concern. I received counseling and begun building a sense of self-respect through weekly sessions where we talk about boundaries, nurturing for our babies and ourselves. I have slowly begun to feel a powerful sense of dignity and strength. I’m rebuilding my confidence and can now recognize my self-worth. I’m currently working on creating independence by continuing my college education. I won’t forget what led me to and kept me in such a toxic and dangerous relationship. I’m filling the void that I expected my abusive partner to fill.
Where do you see yourself in a year from now?
In a home of my own, immersed in school, alongside my children and creating a healthy life for us all.
What would you want people to understand about victims of trafficking and sexual assault?
Sex trafficking and sexual assault chooses its victims indiscriminately. The victimization continues as society casts blame and degrading stereotypes on sex workers. There is a strong correlation between the feelings I experienced as an innocent 13-year-old girl being raped by men I trusted and my time on the streets as a 35-year-old sex worker.
Are you in a relationship now?
No! I still have lots of healing to do and I’m not interested in being with a partner. I am, however, in a healthy and loving relationship with my amazing 11-month-old son. My daughters are college age now and we are spending more time together because I love being a mother.
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