Sex trafficking is a form of modern slavery that exists throughout the United States. Traffickers use violence, threats, lies, debt bondage and other forms of coercion to compel adults and children to engage in commercial sex acts against their will. The situations that sex trafficking victims face vary, many victims become romantically involved with someone who then forces them into prostitution. Others are lured with false promises of a job, and some are forced to sell sex by members of their own families. Victims of sex trafficking include both foreign nationals and US citizens, with women making up the majority of those trafficked for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation. In 2015, the most reported venues/industries for sex trafficking included commercial-front brothels, hotel/motel-based trafficking, online advertisements with unknown locations, residential brothels, and street-based sex trafficking.
Leah was left an abusive household and was bouncing from house to house, providing sexual services for accommodation when she was trafficked. The final man Leah lived with told her she either had to sell drugs or sell herself in order to stay with him.
And as much as both my parents had great qualities there are a lot of really unhealthy things that happened to me as a child. When I was two years old my dad was introduced to crack cocaine and so he began abusing crack cocaine, and at the same time he was also physically abusing my mom. My dad and I had gotten into a really bad argument when I was 14. There was a guy that was living next to my dad at that point and said that me and my best friend could come live with him he was 19 or 20 at the time and we were both 14.
We were there for about two weeks, I remember walking into the apartment and looking at you know there's three girls sitting there that were all our age that had already been out on the streets, and it scared me, and so we you know made our way out of that place. So I'm bouncing from one guy's house to another and it was all adult men, allowing us to live with them in return for sexual favours, it was survival sex at that point.
The last guy that I ended up living with told me that I can either sell drugs or you can sell yourself and that day they took us to where you can purchase girls. It was horrible. You're dealing with constant harassment or physical abuse, telling me you might as well face it you're just a ho. that's why all I'm doing is using you.
Life was it wasn't life. Probably at about four o'clock in the morning, this white truck pulls up we drove off and he grabbed me by my hair and he's saying all these things in my ear and telling me what he's gonna do to me, is gonna kill me. And he had a picture of a little girl in his dashboard and I asked him if it was his daughter and he said yeah, and I said well I'm somebody's daughter. He ended up driving me back to where he picked me up, let me go.
A lot of girls, our story ends in that car. I was like I hate this I don't want to live like this anymore, and I wanted to have a normal life. Even though I had pimps and other girls around me saying ‘how are you gonna make money?’ and all this stuff, it was a motivation for me to go show them that I was going to do it anyway, even if they didn't think that I could. I didn't feel like I had anywhere I could go where people actually understood.
The first session I had with my therapist she said a year from today your life will be different. Once I was connected with the healing community in the therapeutic community it got better because I had people that could actually put labels on what I was experiencing. People who are trafficking children and women in our community should not be any less at risk of criminal penalty than some guy who's selling drugs. The case act is an answer to my prayers and it's been a long time coming for girls like me and women like me.
Narrative provided courtesy of California Against Slavery