How did you become involved in the movement against sex trafficking and sexual exploitation?
It happened when I quit nursing school. I was in counselling at the time just starting to deal with my past as an escort. That’s when I found my calling in life to be a social worker. In some of my first classes, I learned that social work was not just case management. And I knew that too from my past experience of having a case worker oversee services I needed when I had full blown AIDS.
While I was doing a research project for one of my classes, I noticed so many loopholes in state policies when it came to prosecuting those involved in youth prostitution. The victims, being the kids, were prosecuted and the adults, johns and pimps, were just fined. Then I saw something in my own past being a possible key as to why these laws existed in the way they did. Since my past involved corrupt politicians being some of my johns, it sparked me to contact a reporter and share my story.
After my story was published in the Washington Times, on Twitter, I connected with someone that put me in contact with a speaker’s bureau. They trained me on effective and legal measures when sharing my story. I realize I’m only just in the beginning of the movement against sex trafficking; it will be a long journey. At least I’m fighting a good fight, being the voice for those unseen or afraid to speak up.
What draws you to support people who are trafficked and sexually exploited?
As a survivor of sex trafficking, and having firsthand experience of the horrors that sex trafficking does to an individual, I have empathy for others suffering like I did. It’s been over twelve years since my last trick, and nearly eighteen years since my first initiation to the war on your soul that is sex trafficking. During my time as a soldier in this war, I was raped in the double digits and abducted twice. In addition to that, I was also held hostage at gunpoint, shot at a couple times, brutalized by both pimps and johns. Every time I went on calls as an escort, I had that constant fear of being busted or murdered. It sucked as much as I hated it; I had become so mentally beat down by these men. I thought sex was my only skill. First, I was brainwashed, then conditioned by this lifestyle and at the end, dehumanized.
I live with high amounts of PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder) as a result of the C.S.E (child sexual exploitation) lifestyle. An important thing in mentioning the years since my exit, is my damn night terrors. I have terrible panic attacks while sleeping because of my dreams. I take 1-2mg of Klonopin, along with 100mg of Vistaril – this makes it possible to sleep but even then, I still fight sleeping. This message needs to get out about the amount of trauma associated with commercial sex. Even after a couple of years counselling, the night terrors still continue. I’ve noticed with the public speaking, my nightmares are less intense now and I think it may be that knowing as I speak, others can be set free.
I choose to help others break free from these chains filled with pain, hurt and disappear. By choosing to help others regain the right to be human, it regains my freedom once stolen from me. I let them know they’re not alone in this war, their soul is worth more than to be sold. One thing I know is it’s not always a onetime process to break them free.
What does your work involve?
As a speaker, my purpose is to make people aware of the dangers of abuse, oppression and how those victimized can be at a high risk for commercial sexual exploitation. There is a high prevalence of sexual slavery found in US culture. I utilize my racial appearance, gender, and being domestic born and from a middle class home, to convey the message that a sex trafficking survivor can be anyone; this beast knows no boundaries. I explain to people that because of having no options, fear of police and the foster system, I became a high price call boy at seventeen – pimped to politicians, judges and other high-powered men in the US. The purpose for my explaining this is to draw attention to the lack of prevention programs to help homeless youth avoid C.S.E and escape it.
What legal improvements or changes would help to abolish human trafficking and sexual exploitation?
For sex trafficking victims, the first thing that comes to mind is that every victim charged with soliciting of prostitution should be treated as a victim of sex trafficking, not as a criminal, and be offered the same escape routes. They shouldn’t be forced to ‘flip on their pimp’. There should be an initiative for better services; too many girls and women are being slaughtered, maimed from this particular policy. There has to be a safer process for catching pimps that doesn’t put the exploited individual at risk.
If the victim of sex trafficking is caught with possession of a controlled substance, it should not go against them when coming out of jail. Their court records are sealed. The question to receive financial aid is: Have you ever been convicted of a felony possession? If yes, this automatically disqualifies the applicant from receiving any form of government grants and loans offered for education. This question should be abolished. My reason for this legislation change is that if a person cannot get a job or education, this sets them up for being victimized by structural failure.
The road to recovery for the victim, if incarcerated for drug possession along with prostitution, should be detox services, individual and group therapy. If they’re deemed to be a non-violent inmate, then placing them on a floor with a dormitory set up with it looking like a home and not a jail would be best. The idea is to build people up in this period and give them a better shot at life.
If the person is deemed to be at risk of committing violence against another inmate, they should be given intensive therapy with positive reinforcement. A part of PTSD is having outbursts of temper when a person’s safety is threatened. Teaching the person constructive ways to express anger, either through writing, exercise, or even having a punching bag in an exercise room to help them release rage by hitting an object without causing them or someone else harm.
For those arrested solely on prostitution charges, immediate interaction with a survivor is needed. It helps with getting the person to feel at ease while doing intake. Then when it comes to finding alternative housing for them or ‘safe houses’, I feel it’s a must to treat each individual accordingly with placement into a safe house. Not all people can be lumped together. Some people may have kids for example. I think ensuring safe housing along with their kids would help. While in the ‘safe house’ program, they should be given as much education as possible to help them move on and succeed away from prostitution.
For the johns, we need a new approach for attacking the demand. For years, the primary focus was aimed at the victims (supply). Anytime laws prohibiting the sale of prostitution were delegated, the johns managed to skate on by with no repercussions for the hell they put most of us through. But the time has come for that to change. I would like to see no less than five-thousand dollar fines – the higher the income of the john, then the higher the fine. To attack the situation, the high profile johns need to go down as well. Real legal justice needs to be put in place. Wealth should not be a reason to avoid prosecution.
In addition to the fines, in jail, johns need to have therapy – a non-stop john-school. Since some johns claim to be helpers, they will need a harsh, aggressive approach. Those being their drill sergeants could be survivors needing to get out their rage, screaming at johns, making perfectly clear they are not helpers; they are the problem. From my own experience, johns are about dominance, control and power. I think for survivors this would be an awesome tool for taking back control, which these men once had.
For johns who pay to rape kids, they should receive at least thirty-five years to life imprisonment. I don’t believe rapists, child molesters, these types of people can be rehabilitated nor do they belong amongst society. These perpetrators need harsher penalties for their crimes; the damage they do is a lifetime sentence for their victims. Ideally, they should all have a public defender in court, no fancy criminal lawyer for the wealthy ones. The D.A.s prosecuting their cases should be on board with ending the demand because to attack the demand, all players need to be brought to justice.
For pimps, we need the charges for promoting prostitution at the expense of someone else to carry a harder penalty. I find it infuriating that our justice system has a much higher penalty for the purchase and selling of narcotics than for the buying and selling of human beings. These people are someone’s loved ones. They are not goods to be bought and sold.
For anyone else who wants to be involved, what can other people do to help?
People can help by getting involved with charities and projects, rebuilding communities, focusing less on judging one another, not allowing racists values, religion conflicts, homophobia, sexism, transgendered discrimination etc. My message for those like myself who practice a Christian faith (Greek-Orthodox): If God hated gays as much as it is preached, how do you explain me? Everything I went through in the thirty-five years of my life is the ultimate testimony. God had a plan for me. I survived for a reason that was to bring down the evil that is the sex industry.
When working with those who have been sex trafficked, people need to understand it’s not a quick fix; it can depend on the level of prior abuse mixed with time spent being at war. And it’s a lot of negative conditioning people are up against; patience is key. Depending on the abuse they suffered, they may feel mistrust towards others. We can let them know we’re not going to judge them so they can feel free to express all the pain and hurt they’ve been through. I’ve found living with HIV/AIDS to be miniscule versus the hell on earth that is commercial sexual exploitation.
What are your plans for the future?
Getting into graduate school, becoming a clinician, as well having an MPH to work on policies to change the current legislation.