We're serving more and more survivors and as I see the years long path to recovery for each, I think about the young people that traffickers will target next. About how much better it would be to save one person from falling prey to their tricks and traps than trying to pick up the pieces on the other side.
I'm thinking of the 17 year old I met this week who so longs for love and acceptance, she still thinks her pimp is her boyfriend and that he loves her. So desperate for acceptance, she can't see- yet- what a warped type of 'love' it would be to sell her repeatedly to others to be raped. To take the money earned by the acts. To alternate beatings with sweet talk, promises with exploitation. The trap was simple :"I love you. Do this and we'll buy a house and live happily ever after." Not. Going. To. Happen. Just glad she is out now; because the average life expectancy once trafficked is only 7 years.
I'm thinking of the 26 year old with a baby. She is trying so hard, taking classes to get her GED. Taking job training and looking for work. Wanting a better life for her child. But what a hard thing it is to get a job when you have a criminal record. When your frustration and trust levels are so low from the trauma you've endured. When homelessness is breathing down your back.
I'm thinking of another young woman who was raped as a child and told by her mother that it was her fault. Who has been used ever since. Brainwashed into thinking she is just a slut. That she has no other role in life than to fulfill the sick desires of men who buy kids.
If you are thinking of running away because life at home stinks- DON'T. There are other options and people who want to help. What you run to may well be even worse than what you run from.
If you think cute clothes and nice things are the path to happiness, please-- think again. Traffickers smell those vulnerabilities and will wine and dine you and promise you the moon. For a while.
If you're looking for love in all the wrong places, ignoring your instincts and the cautions of others- please stop and reconsider A few years from now, do you really want to be a worn out, used up, old-before-her-years woman, tossed out for the next gullible young thing that comes along? Or dead from STDs, neglected health issues, malnutrition or violence? Real love doesn't exploit.
I wish I could introduce you to some of the girls and women I meet who fell for the traps. They'd tell you the same thing - in stronger words.
You are important. You deserve more. With love,
PS To empower yourself and your peers to avoid falling prey to trafficker's traps, check out the "Tactics" link on our youth website at Be The Jam