We are always taught to never say never, but still—I never thought something like this would happen to me. I guess I didn’t really understand what was going on until he was dragging me up the stairs by my hair.
Looking back, it was a classic case, even if I could not see it as such while I was living it.
The journey seemed like it had taken a lifetime. I had to leave an abusive father, and I didn’t really have anywhere to go until this couple I had met on the internet offered me refuge. In the back of my mind, something told me it was too good to be true. Something told me it was dangerous. But, what other choice did I have?
Well, it was too good to be true. I ended up working for the guy, living in his house…every spare moment working at his “church”…every spare dime going into the offering plate…
And when I refused to conform to their demands, I was out. Just like that. On the street. I couldn’t believe it. After a rapid succession of events, I found myself, an 18 year old girl, sitting in front of a homeless shelter in downtown Richmond, VA, waiting for it to open.
I was terrified, and I had no idea what to do or how to survive. Sure, I had endured child abuse and extreme neglect. But, I had never been without a roof over my head. I had never been in a situation in which I absolutely had no one to help me. I didn’t know where to find food or clothing. I didn’t know how to keep myself safe. I knew I was in danger of not making it out of this situation alive. This was a part of the city where women were pulled into alleyways and raped and killed in broad daylight. Women just like me…
Then there was this guy. He looked ok. Other women interacted with him, and he didn’t seem inclined to hurt them. He seemed like he cared. He saw me and offered me some money to buy a meal. He asked me my story and I told him all of it. He bought me a pair of shoes. He said he liked them and wanted to see me wear them. Then he bought me clothes. He liked how I looked in them. Then he wanted sex.
Again, something in me knew this was dangerous. I didn’t want to do it, but he insisted. I owed him. He was taking care of me. That was the least I could do to pay him back for all he had done for me. I swallowed the lump in my throat, choked back my tears, and did what he asked. Everything he asked.
Very quickly, he turned from caring to possessive. He went from giving to demanding. He said he liked me. Eventually, he decided that he liked me so much that he wanted to share me with other men. I was so afraid to refuse him. It became very clear that there would be a price to pay if I did. I began to realize what a dangerous man he really was. I lived in fear and did as I was told. I felt dirty and wondered how awful I must be to have gotten myself in such a situation. I began to assume the identity of a prostitute and thought that was all I would ever be. I blamed myself as all my hopes and dreams became impossible and unreachable.
Prostitution is not a victimless crime, especially considering the fact that many of the women who seem to be prostitutes are actually victims of the sex trafficking industry.
One day, I decided that I just couldn’t live that way anymore, so I ran and hid at a day shelter that doubled as a social service agency. He found me. As he dragged me up the stairs by my hair, he let me know that I would regret running from him. “You are mine. You belong to me. You do as you’re told, and you’ll be taken care of. Don’t you ever run from me again.”
Somehow, something in me rebelled. I would rather die than go back! I started screaming, and a guy came running into the stairwell! He chased the man outside and called the police while I trembled, still sitting on the stairs, too weak and terrified to move. I could hear the shouting outside. He was shouting about how I belonged to him, like I was a piece of property. The man who came to my aid did not back down, and my tormenter left before the police arrived. I knew God had sent that man to help me, and had given him the courage to do it.
I was fortunate enough to find a group of people who circled around me and protected me until I was able to get off the street. But, most women who find themselves in similar situations are never rescued. To look at me now, 13 years later, you would never believe this had happened to me. I live a normal life, working a normal job. By all appearances, I have never had anything out of the ordinary happen to me.
But, appearances are the problem. Women who are victims of sex trafficking are taught to look like they are in it because they want to be, and there are penalties for trying to get out. You can learn more about statistics, dangers, and other topics related to sex trafficking at the National Institute of Justice’s website. Speak out against human trafficking. Someone’s life may depend on it.
But why should we, as Christians, care about such evils happening in our world? Because not only did Jesus emphasize caring for the most vulnerable in society, but the overarching narrative of Scripture prescribes the removal of oppression for women, children, and those taken captive as slaves. The Word of God is clear. We are to be the hands and feet of Christ in such situations. And, if my story sounds like yours, please know that there can be life after such trauma. Your worth is more than precious jewels in the eyes of the Father, and He can heal you.
The Soul Care Collective often handles content that can be sensitive and in some circumstances, it may pose potential dangers for our writers. For example, writing about domestic violence experiences can expose the writer to increased danger from retaliation or litigation. The members of the Soul Care Collective steering committee believe that no person should have to choose between having their most authentic voice heard and being exposed to harm. Therefore, with some specifically chosen posts, our author’s name will appear as anonymous in order to provide confidentiality. Each anonymous author has been thoroughly screened to validate his or her personal story, and works directly with a steering committee member during the writing, editing and publishing process.