My story is as isolated an incident as the existence of Walmart stores
There’s this idea that trafficking happens ‘over there’ somewhere, in some God-forsaken hellhole. There is little understanding that the selling of girls happens every day in so-called enlightened Western liberal democracies. Carrie Bailee’s story of being sold by her father into a child paedophile and pornography ring in Canada is one example.
Here’s another, told by ‘Jane’, of being prostituted by her family in the US. This is much more common than we realise! We need to re-frame the way we think about the issue and address it on our own doorstep as well as globally.
If you’re expecting my “sold into child slavery” story to begin with guys in ski masks bursting into my bedroom and snatching me up in the night, the actual story is worse, in a way. One night, my stepdad just pulled me out of bed and said, “Come here, uncle needs to see you.” There were zero uncles downstairs. But there were several creepy, creepy men who passed me around from lap to lap and paid him for the privilege. If you’re asking yourself where my mother was, well, she was right there, watching.
My stepdad and mother would have people over all hours of the night, drinking and smoking crack. Sort of like family game night, as directed by Darren Aronofsky. She was in on the decision to do what they did (and if you want to give yourself nightmares, try to imagine the conversation that led them to broach the subject). When I was that age, it didn’t go beyond “sit on uncle’s lap.” I’d do as I was told and they’d call me a good girl and that was that — I obviously had no idea what was going on. Then I got a few years older, and they started sending me off on “private sessions.” Yes, that means exactly what you think it means. Let’s not kid ourselves.
The next question that’s flashing through your mind is probably, “Why didn’t you tell someone?”
I did — I was just 6 years old when I (accidentally) mentioned something about my “uncles” to a teacher — I just said something like: “My uncle’s came over and we had fun,” because those were the words my mom always used. If you think at this point a SWAT team raced to my house and busted everyone, you and I live in different worlds. What happened instead was the teacher called my mom, and she talked her way out of it somehow. When I got home, she beat me up, I think to block out her entire Terrible Person Bingo card.
What a crazy, unusual situation, right? If you saw it in a scripted movie, you’d think the writer should go see a therapist. But here’s the truth: human trafficking (forcing someone into labor or sex acts against their will) is a $9.5 billion industry in the USA — to pick a random comparison, that’s four times what the Burger King chain takes in. Recent stats found 83 percent of sex trafficking incidents in the U.S. involved victims that were U.S. citizens, and nearly half of those were minors — just like I was. It’s estimated that right now 300,000 kids are in this situation or are at risk. Just this June, the FBI freed 168 kids who’d been sold into sex slavery across 106 American cities. Since 2008, at least 4,000 kids have been freed from similar operations. Six years. So, yeah, my story is as isolated an incident as the existence of Walmart stores. Read more