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I’m not sure how I got to this place, doing these things, feeling so worthless. I was innocent once – a child full of hope, possibility and wonder. I suppose that world shifted the first time my uncle held me in his lap, whispered in my ear how I made him feel and touched me the first time. When he was done, he shoved me away disgusted. That’s when I learned something was very wrong with me – that I both drew and repulsed men. I had no idea how to be different, less or more of something so I would be left alone. So I could go back to that place of wonder and possibility. 

I grew up in a small town in Illinois, attending school with the same kids up through high school. My parents divorced when I was in grade school and mom worked so my uncle was over a lot. Still uncertain how to be less or more, I joined the cheer squad and started dating. Parties were a welcome relief, a place to drink with my friends and forget what waited at home. I realize now, I was desperate for anyone to love me, to take away the pain of emotional and sexual abuse that wouldn’t stop. 

When Shaun showed up at a party my junior year, I was ripe for the picking. He was older, good looking and so charming. He saw me when others didn’t, bringing me gifts, taking me out, completely spoiling me – convincing me I didn’t need to be less or more – but was perfect as I was. I fell in love with Shaun and trusted him to take care of me. So, when Shaun suggested I move in with him so he could protect me from my uncle – I couldn’t pack fast enough. The relief and joy I felt at being free was un-imaginable! And it lasted all of one week. 

Shaun explained money was tight and he needed my help. He said all those gifts and expensive dinners had zapped his account and if I would hang out with a friend of his, some of that money could be earned back. He wanted to marry me but couldn’t afford to take care of me unless I would help out.  So I went to hang out not understanding that it wasn’t one friend but a group of guys and their idea of hanging out meant being gang raped and tortured for over six hours. When Shaun picked me up, I expected him to be furious. He looked me over, told me to clean up and be ready to hang out the next night. 

Why didn’t I leave then? Where would I go – back to my uncle? I knew Shaun loved me, that he wanted to marry me. Surely this would end soon, so I endured un-imaginable brutality and degradation waiting and waiting for Shaun to say he had enough money and take me out of this crazy world I had entered. I did protest the first time he brought another girl to live with us but that ended with a beating followed by the assurance he loved me and the new girl would help him earn money faster.  I tried to run away once too, but he found me and threatened to kill me if I ever tried that again. I spent a week in a dark basement and then went back to work in hotels, massage parlors, nasty apartments and beautiful homes in expensive neighborhoods. There were always men and sometimes women, people from all walks of life willing to pay Shaun money to use my body to gratify their sick lusts. It was never going to stop. How did I get here? How did this happen? I’ve been to the emergency room more times than I can count, been picked up by the police, spent nights in jail and been to the abortion clinic three times. Why don’t they see me? How can this keep happening? How did I get here?  - Someone

 

The Facts:  We know on average children, traffickers target both girls and boys age 12-14. Victims have most likely been abused, neglected or sexually assaulted from a young age, usually by a primary caregiver. Traffickers will exploit vulnerabilities, build trust and then exploit the victim. They will emotionally, verbally, psychologically and physically abuse the victim, often threatening to harm them, a family member or friend, or kill the victim. Victims are kept in plain site throughout communities, visiting businesses that you frequent, under the strong arm of their trafficker. At points on their journey they are locked away physically until they can be controlled and compelled to the will of their trafficker. Victims are forced to have sex 5-20 times a day, becoming weak, addicted and diseased. Under such torture the victims mind will disassociate from their body and surroundings until they lose the ability to think or reason. 

You see these victims but you don’t see them because the eyes cannot see what the mind cannot understand or comprehend. You see a promiscuous person strung out on drugs and acting crazy. We must ask why and look beyond the surface. What seems like choice can often be traced to a history of abuses that were not a choice. Let’s choose to see the unseen and put a stop to their pain!