No Way Out

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Some think that all people doing sex work are doing so by choice. As our subject anonymously shares, she was only 16 when she gave birth to her daughter and was coerced into a life of sex work.

With this life being the only one she knew, she didn’t see any hope. Watch the video to see how she escaped and changed her life.

Below is a transcript of the video edited for readability.

Speaker 1: It was a day before my birthday. I’m sitting on the bed and I’m by myself and I’m freaking out and I’m like they’re not gonna know I’m here, they’re not gonna know I’m here. I heard banging on the door and that was the room next door and I was like it’s happening, it’s happening… Like I’ve been doing this for years I’ve never been caught. 

So, like there’s a bunch of stuff already through my head and then there’s just a knock on my door. This is it, like I’m going to jail.

The following testimony is presented anonymously and reenacted by professional actors.

Speaker 1: My mom was a drug addict. So, I was in and out of foster care. She was like shooting up in front of a little brother and I was like so mad I wanted to beat her up so bad. One day we got into a big fight and she left.

I would hang out just partying, and I was like 15, I’d just found out I was pregnant and I was like “I’m not going back to foster care.” So, I had my daughter right before turning 16, that’s when I started to like partying a lot. So, I would like leave a lot. I would leave her with my grandma and my sister, whatever, cause my mom, she was in jail. 

I met some girls and they were telling me “Oh like, oh we know these guys,” and they were pimps. There was one of them in particular that I started like, you know, I ride around with him all day and like he played the whole boyfriend role at first. He would buy me things and like take me out to dinner.

The first time I ever busted a date, seen a John or whatever, I just remember being done and like just crying. Like I would go to the bathroom and I would cry, but it was like, there was money. I had money in my hands and that’s something I’ve never had.

So, I’m like, “Okay, I can do this,” like okay I have money, I have a car, I have a house, you know, I have a man. I have this, I have that…It just started going bad because like I thought it was me and him but he would go and talk to other girls, which is how it works, you know… And I remember just yelling at him and he just he hit me and he hit me so hard I blacked out. And I just woke up and I was just bleeding and like on my mouth and I had a black eye and I was like, “Why did you do that?” and he was just like, “No, you listen to me,” like you’re not the boss… That was the day that I knew, like I guess like, he runs it.  I just got used to it. 

I remember I would, one day I tried to leave him and he chained me to the bed as far as I could go was to the bathroom. And he left me a cup of noodles, like three or four of them, he put the do not disturb sign on it. It was a crappy motel, like he paid for the three days and he was like, “You better be gettin’ money.” 

A John came to my room and he was scared and he left. So like I couldn’t do it he would tell me like, “Oh like you’re not gonna do anything without me, what are you gonna do?”  like, “you can’t get a job,”  he’s like “nobody wants you, you have tattoos and he would tell me that every day.

So eventually it was branded in my brain like, “Okay nobody else is gonna want me and I can’t get a job, I can’t do anything, I’m worthless. And I would cry every night and I would just be so disgusted with myself, but I would still get up and be like “I  guess this is what I have to do.” I have to live this way, you know, because I would feel that I couldn’t live any other way…until I came here.

So I’m like, “This is it, it’s happening, it’s happening, like I’m going to jail.” And I’m like just not cooperating, this one cop he’s being super cool. When there’s nobody else in the room, he makes everybody leave, and he’s like, “You have a daughter right?” and I just instantly started crying and he was like, “You have a daughter,” he’s like, “You need to do something.” I just handed over my phone. I hand over the money and I was like, “Just get me out of here.”

My mom is actually clean now she has three years and she went to The Salvation Army’s program and she still goes to the church down there too. So I was looking on the list and The Salvation Army just popped out and I was like, “I need to go here.” 

Nicole, Case Manager for The Salvation Army Hospitality House: She had her sweatshirt pulled up over, so all you could see was like a little part of her face. I can see that she felt lost—like she didn’t know where to go, she was alone, she had no one to turn to. Just that feeling of being alone and scared. 

Speaker 1: Once Nicole started talking with me, I was just like, it was like an instant connection. There are days where I was like, “I don’t want to be here,” but it saved my life. And Nicole, she like always, they redirect me like, “You can do things, like it’s better for you here,” 

Nicole, Case Manager for The Salvation Army Hospitality House: You know, I’ve seen people, you know, they had used drugs and been in and out of jail there since they were teenagers…you know, they come here and went through the program and like it’s a couple years later and they’re still sober and they still have a job and they still have housing and they haven’t been back to jail, like it’s amazing. 

Speaker 1: So I got a job and I just moved out of the Salvation Army. I got my daughter back. I don’t feel worthless anymore. If you really want to get out then you can get out. It’s not bad to tell somebody. There definitely is a way. There are girls like me who just felt like they couldn’t say nothing. I wanted to be an advocate for it. I would just, I want to speak for them.

Almost every girl in my hometown, you would look at this girl and think, “no way,”  like you look at her, she looks so normal. I did this right underneath my mother’s nose. When my mom got out, I would go to her house every day and she had no idea. A lot of us are manipulated and tricked, we’re like not willing. A lot of times we have to be chained to beds and you know, locked in motel rooms and beat up until we’re unconscious like that goes on everyday. It’s real, it’s not a joke, it’s real life.

In 2016, The Salvation Army provided holistic services to 263 trafficking survivors in the western United States.

Speaker 1: I thank God every night because if it wasn’t for that knock on the door at that hotel I wouldn’t be here. Without Nicole, I wouldn’t be here. Like I said, I thank God every night.

To report any suspicious human trafficking behavior, please contact The National Human Trafficking Hotline, 1-888-373-7888.

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