These stories are written in the first person, even though they are not written by the survivors themselves. However, apart from the omission of names and identifying information, all aspects of the stories have really happened, right here in Tennessee.
I could be your daughter. Your niece. The girl next door. I could be someone you love or someone you simply walk past in the store. Whoever I am to you, I was once an average American high school girl from another dysfunctional, broken home.
I was. But not anymore.
Who would I be now if I hadn’t gone to that party? What if I had realized that I would be drugged? Would they still have raped me? Would I have been sold to a pimp like I was the catch of the day?
I don’t know, and I never will. Because I did go to that party and was drugged without my knowledge. They did rape me and sell my barely-conscious self to the first pimp of several. A fifteen year old isn’t supposed to know about guerilla pimps, at least not from my perspective. Girls my age are supposed to be obsessed with boys and clothes and gossip, not sold for sex - day after day, hour after hour, for three months straight.
Every detail. Every man. Every waking nightmare has been carved in my memory. I wish I could forget those months, but still they remain.
Every. Waking. Minute.
When I was rescued, the beatings had gotten so bad that a neurologist had to assess the physical damage. My body was a wreck, and I wanted to die. Nothing mattered anymore. My mother didn’t love me, and the world was just out to use me.
Then, something different happened. I met some people with a group called End Slavery Tennessee. Even before I trusted them, they took me to doctors. They got me in counseling and helped with my jitters over the court case. When my dad moved here from overseas to take care of me, they helped us with our living expenses, and worked hard to get him a job and to help him pass his citizenship test.
Every step of the way, they’ve been here. With me. Beside me. My Lifeliners from End Slavery take me out to live like a teen again, but they also show me the meaning of compassion by giving me the chance to feed the homeless every week. My friends at End Slavery have become family, and they’ve given me something I thought I’d never regain. Hope. In a loving and just God. Hope for a future that looks brighter. One day I even hope to fulfill my dream of becoming a sign language translator. One of their volunteers teaches me sign language weekly.
Dreams seemed a distant memory when my life was nothing but nightmares. But now I dare to dream again.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not the same girl that walked into a party looking for some fun. That girl is gone. Vanished. Erased. This broken girl is all that’s left. My bruises are healing, but the scars will forever remain.
You may not know my name, so think of me as Dawn.
For I am in between an endless night and the rising sun.