There are an estimated 403,000 people living in modern slavery in the United States (GSI 2018). Sex trafficking exists throughout the country. 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.
Sara B fell in with the wrong crowd during high school and became addicted to drugs and alcohol. After school, Sara began working for an escort service where she believed she could earn good money. However, Sara did not receive any of the money she earned and felt like she could not leave. Sara’s drug addiction became worse, until one day she was taken to a drug house and raped by several men. It was after this that Sara decided she couldn’t do it anymore. She moved to St Louis, attended college, worked with inner-city kids and travelled to Thailand to council exploited women on how to get help. Sara is currently a health care worker.
Growing up I was raised in a single parent household in a loving home and was surrounded by friends and family. I moved around a lot. I pretty much just stuck to myself.
When I was 13 my mom met my stepdad. That was a big change for me and my mom was always working. My dad would come home and he was just very controlling and an alcoholic and verbally abusive. I believed that I wasn’t worth anything and I was just better left out of the picture.
I went to high school, got involved with the wrong crowd, the ones that were doing the drugs and their parents did drugs and got involved with sneaking out. After graduating high school I was introduced to coke for the first time. I walked out of the room and said that I didn’t need that, I didn’t want that. I still kept drinking with them and as the night went on and it was presented to me I eventually gave in. my mom had kicked me out several times and I actually ended up staying in my car for a week. My drug addiction became worse and the alcohol, I was not just going out on the weekends, it was every day of the week. My life was out of control and I didn’t see it myself but everyone around me had told me to get help.
At the time I had friends that were strippers and, to me it looked glamorous. They made it look like they were making a bunch of money and men wanted to be with them. I knew that was something that I wanted to do. I worked with the stripping not very long until I actually found that there was an escort service here in Quad City that I could get a hold of.
Working for the escorting business I knew I’d make a lot more money and it’d be easier. She also had told me that I’d be going by another name and this would be a nickname that no one else knew me by. I also was told to slip the money under the door. She had someone that would take the money from me. I remember after a week I had wanted to quit and I wanted to get out. But because I was renting from her I didn’t think that there was any way that I was going to be able to get out of this.
I would meet clients at hotels and their house and sometimes truck stops. Because of the drugs and alcohol I was so numb, but at the same time I was always afraid, and I felt like I was living two different lives, two different identities. I did this for over a year and dealt with feelings of shame and guilt and depression and wanting to get out. I didn’t want my family to know about it. It wasn’t until I got my second DUI. I needed a ride home and had gotten a ride from a guy across the street and he took me to a drug house where I was raped by multiple men.
I decided that I couldn’t do it anymore. One of the police officers told me that I needed to get help otherwise they were going to see me dead in a ditch like they’d seen many times with other girls.
It’s really important who you surround yourself with now and I never reached out to any of my mentors or teachers or even family because I felt like they couldn’t relate or they didn’t know what they were talking about. And I think many times that these people are truly in your life and they do care and if it’s someone that you trust it’s really important to talk to someone. Because you don’t have to make those bad decisions or go down that road.
Narrative produced by Braking Traffik