Full article published on Impolite Conversation - 6 August 2013
What I’ve Seen
Sexual trauma – especially at a young age – is heartbreaking, but it also is a gateway event to sexually acting out (not a fan of that term, but I don’t have other words to use) and becoming a trafficker’s wet dream. Self-esteem and lack thereof plays a huge role in who will become a victim of human trafficking and the sex industry as a whole. We become targets for the worst shooters around.
I was sexually molested when I was a young girl – repeatedly. I had loving parents. I wasn’t beaten, abused nor neglected. I was loved. Textbook case: I never told my parents until it was too late. Being sexually molested, starting at the age of three years old, is like a training camp for future victims. You begin to believe that your body does not belong to you; it’s there for the taking. Boundaries – what are boundaries? You unconsciously learn that sex is a way to get attention. Your self-worth depends on it. Your self-image is that of someone who believes they are worthless, powerless and most of all, disposable.
I believe the roots of the mindset of young girls and women who end up victims of human trafficking needs to be addressed. I’m sure there are many different events that lead to the diminishing of one’s self-image – I’ve stated one, as I can only speak from my personal experience. I would like to add – that this isn’t the story for millions of young girls in different countries. I think their circumstances might differ.
With that understanding, it’s simple to see how young girls and women become easy prey for traffickers; formally known as “pimps”.
If the shoe fits, wear it.
When I hit my teen years I put my parents through hell. Constantly running away, constantly ending up in Juvenile Hall, and constantly being my own worst enemy. I didn’t have the skills or the personal belief in myself to make other choices.
I met my pimp when I was 16 years old in downtown Portland. He spewed the perfect flowery words that my crushed self-esteem needed to hear. You’re beautiful, you’re America’s finest, men love you, you could make so much money and have everything your heart desires… Blah, blah, blah. I ate those crumbs of flattery like a starving, malnourished child. He made me feel good about myself, something I wasn’t used to, but loved. It was merely a band-aid on my invisible self-worth. So, I was turned out on the streets of Portland. Union Avenue became my home in 1982. Working 10-12 hour shifts in the rain was less than the glamor I was promised. Being gang raped by knife-point wasn’t one of the highlights of being manipulated into the lifestyle.
Having the Portland Police look me straight in the eye, as I stood before them, bloodied, beaten, and with my breast exposed, and tell me that no crime had been committed because I was a prostitute was just another blow. A strong reaffirming message was well received: I didn’t matter. My body did not belong to me and I was disposable. No report was ever taken as I stood at that gas station on 82nd Avenue that night. The gas station attendant gave the officers the license plate number of my attacker’s vehicle, yet they didn’t bother with it. In fact, they were out of there within minutes of showing up. Leaving a bloody child to fend for herself… Read the full article on Impolite Conversation here.