Written by a survivor of human trafficking
When I escaped the sex trade, I did not identify as a survivor. I thought that I was a bad person who made bad decisions. I was put in a program designed to help with drug addiction and alcoholism. I was provided with housing at a sober living facility. I was required to find a legitimate job. I was 23 years old and I had nothing to put on a resume, except I worked at a couple of different restaurants between 16 and 18 years old for a couple of months each, nothing that would make an employer think “She will be an asset to our company.”
No one knew that being prostituted was part of my recent past, I didn’t tell anyone. I felt ashamed and alone, I didn’t know what to say. It was easier to admit to being a drug addict because there were community and support for that affliction. On my journey to becoming employed, I had a couple of problems. I did not feel confident that I would be hired and I had no clothes that were appropriate for an interview. I reached out to an old friend and asked her if she knew of anyone who would hire me and she said to come by her place of employment and talk with the owner.
I showed up the next day and was introduced to him and hired on the spot. I felt excited to have a job and for a second, I let myself become excited about the prospect of a new life. I went to work the following day and was washing dishes, the next thing I knew, I was being groped and told that if I didn’t allow this- there would be no work available for me. I felt scared and unsure of what to do next. It was a requirement of the program to be employed. I finished out the day and went home, feeling somehow like I had failed and that this was my fault.
The next day, I told my case manager what happened. I also confessed to her my past experiences with the sex trade. She tried to help the best she could and I quit that job. Shortly after, I had the same experience at another job. I quit that one too. Eventually, I found a job that didn’t include sexual harassment. At this point, I was physically free from the sex trade but the effects lingered. I was first trafficked at the age of 17. I am now 27 years old and 4 years out of the sex trade. I have accomplished a lot but couldn’t shake the emptiness I felt on the inside. I was still haunted by intrusive thoughts of past trauma, I didn’t know that survivor services existed or even applied to me. Then I applied with Rethreaded.
My journey wasn’t easy, I had to fight every day to get free from the bondage of the sex trade. There are many obstacles and challenges that women face in physically escaping the sex trade, but much more lie ahead for women on their journey to continued healing and living a whole life. The reality is that many women leave the sex trade incredibly disadvantaged and vulnerable to re-exploitation. A real escape doesn’t happen until those vulnerabilities are overcome. It wasn’t until I was connected with Rethreaded and the Survivor Advocate Program that I was able to find acceptance and healing. I was taught how to dress for success. I have skills that I can put on a resume and use to advance in my career. I have been given the tools to build a life that is beyond what I ever thought possible. I now know that my past does not define me.
This blog was part of the Breaking Misconceptions Blog Series. To learn more check out the rest of the series.
“You don’t look like a survivor…”