In the beginning of my journey of recovery, I had a hard time identifying myself as a victim, let alone a survivor. I perceived being a victim as being weak, or forced into a dangerous situation. Stubbornly I refused to even humor the idea that I was forced, or coerced into the sex industry. After all, it was my idea. Ever since I was 8, I was watching pornography and fantasizing about being that girl on the screen someday. In 9th grade, when asked what my dream job was, I responded “To work at the Bunny Ranch.” I had Porn Star scribbled all over my Jansport in High School. And at age 21, while sitting across from my male manager at a local restaurant, he asked me why I wasn’t working at a brothel by now. Months later, I made my “dream” come true; I contacted an Elite Agency and flew to Miami, the glamour and glitz blinding me to the reality of the situation. Less than a month later, I was running for my life from some Shady pimp I had met off Backpage; towards another suitcase pimp with the same promises. I repeated this cycle for 6 years of my life, always believing the lies and that this “Agency” or “Pimp” would be different. Usually though, it only turned out worse.
But, I wasn’t the victim, right? After all, I had chosen this line of work. No one reprimanded me or even cared that I was watching Pornography throughout grade school. No one had put a gun to my head and forced me to have sex for money (initially). I was in control, I was the strong one, and I was invincible to all the damage these men had caused me. Right?
The Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act 2015 defines Human Trafficking as “Recruiting, harboring, transporting, providing, obtaining, patronizing, or soliciting of an individual though the means of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of commercial sex.” Commercial Sex is defined as “Any sex act on account of which anything of value is given to or received by any person.” This debunks American’s perceptions of sex trafficking as a scene from the movie Taken or a warehouse of teenagers disguised as a massage parlor in Bangkok. This is your college roommate, using a Sugar Daddy website to pay her tuition. This is the Porn Star you see on Pay-Per-View, waiting to get paid for a scene she did 7 months ago, that’s already all over the internet and distributed onto DVD. This is your local amateur model, whose photographer coerces her to take off her clothes during a shoot, convincing her of more money and work if she does a little more afterwards. This was me, all of the above, scammed, manipulated and coerced into performing multiple sex acts for the fame and money that never came. I was a victim. And until I admitted it to myself and others, was healing able to take place.
The reality is, 20.9 million people are trafficked sexually on this globe, with 1.5 million people in North America, European Unions, and other developed countries (PolarisProject.org). This is an epidemic we are all unaware of; and what’s even worse, is that we criminalize and incarcerate these women as opposed to helping heal them! We need to be treating their traumas and rehabilitating them to feel safe to engage in normal society again, not further outcast them with labels or felonies. Not enough is being done for these victims of the sex industry. But I am here today, to openly say, if you have suffered from the same neglect and abuse that I have and have traveled down the same path as I did, you are NOT ALONE. There is HOPE. This foundation, among other resources Free Ever After can provide for you, can help guide you down the road to redemption. You are not weak for reaching out or admitting the truth.
In fact, you are a survivor.
And I am too.