From 9 to 20

From the age of 9 until 20 I was trapped.  Today, I am free.

I recently looked back at something I’d written a short three years ago.  At that time I was sitting in a Starbucks and had begun to journal out the complexities of my longing heart…

Dare I do it? Dare I write?  Not that I think I’d have any chance to publish it or that anyone would read it, but then again, what if?  I’ve set out in my life to take chances, but really, what chance is this? Maybe it’ll be good for me.  Maybe I’ll just start to write again.  It’s been years since I’ve really enjoyed it like I once did.  It’s a get-a-way of sorts, even if I’m directly addressing issues I’d rather ignore.  It would just be me searching for meaning I already need to be searching for.   But what about?  About me?  Who would care?  About my life?  Who would care?  About my experiences? Are they really that interesting or that important?   Who knows?  Maybe I’ll just start writing and see what happens.  Nothing says this has to be read by millions or even anyone at all.  Hmmm, what a thought.  Should I?  Maybe I should.  Maybe I will.  I think I will.  I think I’m supposed to…”

Even now, as I sit and write, I’m unsure.  I’m more interested in taking the leap that begins the journey than knowing where the journey ends.  I fit pieces together as the pieces come.  I’m sure professional authors would cringe at the strategy, but a professional is certainly not something I claim to be.  What I am is a broken individual, healed by the grace of God and passionate about fighting the prevalence of sexual abuse. I am a survivor of despair and doubt. I am a survivor of humiliation and lies, of violence and rape.  I am a survivor of slavery and human trafficking.  Most of all, I think, I’ve survived myself. 

I’m willing to take the risk if you are– to become uncomfortable.  I’m willing to share with you my story of being sexually trafficked right here in America, if you’re willing to listen.  What I do not want however, if for this to be a story of despair– because it’s not.  It’s  a story of hope.  There is a thrasher-filled road of healing ahead of me yes, but I am in the process of freedom.

May this blog serve as education to those who do not yet know or understand the atrocities of trafficking and may it serve as encouragement to those who understand it all too well.

**This is a repost from a blog originally written on September 13, 2011**

Counting On Me

tumblr_m7p5tjhpyo1rbwt73o1_500Aaaa! I’m so frustrated today.  When you don’t know what you’re missing, you don’t know what you’re missing.  Obvious statement I know, but it’s become all too close to the forefront of my mind today.  To be cared for, to be loved… you might as well be speaking Dutch.  I don’t think I know a single word of Dutch.  In the same, I only speak a few words of this language people call “love.”  I just don’t understand it.  I want to understand it, but I don’t.  Life was much simpler when I lived in isolation– when I took care of myself, never asking for help, never looking for community support.  I’m not saying it was a better life, but it was simpler.

As I continue to heal, as I continue to become “healthier,” I learn more and more about what I haven’t had.  An ache that we’re all born with is being reignited in my soul.  A desire to be taken care of, protected, loved, appreciated and honored is long since something I’ve done away with.  Those desires have been safely suffocated by years of neglectful layers.  I had all but fully convinced my fiercely independent self that I had absolutely no need for such childish aspirations.

Yet… here comes God and His crafty intervention, ever asking for personal improvement.  With the community I have now, I find myself getting tastes of what I’ve missed, and I find myself wanting more.  Dammit.  Against all my dedicated attempts, I find myself wanting love.  I remember the specific moment in my life when I promised myself I would never desire such a vulnerable thing again.  I had been hurt, rejected, let down and taken advantage of for an infinite number of times and I decided at that point to be totally self-soothing.  I would never again need any help from any person, no care, no acceptance of affection from another human being ever again.  I had me and that was all I knew I could handle.  “Me” was the only person I knew I could count on.  “Me” was the only entity that I thought wouldn’t cause me pain.

Fast forward to today and I find myself faced with quite the contradiction.  My heart wants to be cared for but my mind does not trust it.  It’s torture.  I also realize the confusing dichotomy that rules which applied to my old life, do not necessarily apply to my new life…. meaning that because people could not be trusted then, does not mean that people cannot be trusted now.  They’re not the same people, I’m not the same person… really, nothing is the same.  Yet, I still find myself fighting.  I want to spend an hour in the hug of a friend I trust, and yet I will literally hate myself for even the want to do so.

And so my journey continues.

May this blog serve as an education to those who do not yet know or understand the atrocities of trafficking and may it serve as an encouragement to those who understand it all too well.

(Post originally written 12/05/12)


Well, it’s been a while since I’ve written, but I am now returning both to my blog and to the States.  It’s certainly been a busy few past months.  Fears, joys, surprises, decisions and disappointments but lots and lots of hope.  This past month specifically I’ve been working in SE Asia on an anti-trafficking project.  This work has been a passion of mine for years, but in the words of a close friend, “today I fell in love with this project all over again.”

One of the young women we’ve been working with lately was assaulted last night.  Plainly speaking, my friend had the crap beat out of her by a jerk… a jerk attempting to exert his “power” in a prevalent area of this red light district.  All day long I’ve been struggling with a desire to get revenge.  I know that’s the Lord’s job and He’s been kind enough to continually remind me of that but of course, it’s still hard.  I don’t like people making mean faces at my friends, let alone physically assaulting them.  In any regard, I was reading through scripture this evening and came across Psalms 9 and 10.  For those of you like me who have a heart to write wrongs and protect the innocent, I hope these words from the latter Psalm will provide you some comfort as it did me.

Psalm 10

Why, Lord, do you stand far off?
Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?

In his arrogance the wicked man hunts down the weak,
who are caught in the schemes he devises.
He boasts about the cravings of his heart;
he blesses the greedy and reviles the Lord.
In his pride the wicked man does not seek him;
in all his thoughts there is no room for God.
His ways are always prosperous;
your laws are rejected by him;
he sneers at all his enemies.
He says to himself, “Nothing will ever shake me.”
He swears, “No one will ever do me harm.”

His mouth is full of lies and threats;
trouble and evil are under his tongue.
He lies in wait near the villages;
from ambush he murders the innocent.
His eyes watch in secret for his victims;
    like a lion in cover he lies in wait.
He lies in wait to catch the helpless;
he catches the helpless and drags them off in his net.
10 His victims are crushed, they collapse;
they fall under his strength.
11 He says to himself, “God will never notice;
he covers his face and never sees.”

12 Arise, Lord! Lift up your hand, O God.
Do not forget the helpless.
13 Why does the wicked man revile God?
Why does he say to himself,
“He won’t call me to account”?
14 But you, God, see the trouble of the afflicted;
    you consider their grief and take it in hand.
The victims commit themselves to you;
    you are the helper of the fatherless.
15 Break the arm of the wicked man;
call the evildoer to account for his wickedness
that would not otherwise be found out.

16 The Lord is King for ever and ever;
the nations will perish from his land.
17 You, Lord, hear the desire of the afflicted;
    you encourage them, and you listen to their cry,
18 defending the fatherless and the oppressed,
so that mere earthly mortals
will never again strike terror.

May this blog serve as an education to those who do not yet know or understand the atrocities of trafficking and may it serve as an encouragement to those who understand it all too well.

(Post originally written 11/09/12)

Too Bad, So Sad

Here’s a question I’ve never been wanting to ask for immense fear of the answer.  What’s wrong with me? I mean really, what’s wrong with me??  Why has no one wanted me?  Was I really such a bad kid, a bad baby?  Did I cry too much?  They said I cried a lot.  As I got older, they said I was too sensitive.  Was I too ugly, too fat, top stubborn, too much trouble?

Was it because I was disrespectful to them that they hated me so much?

I remember from her… I remember my mother repeatedly telling me that “I wasn’t hers, she had no daughter, you’re not good enough to be my daughter.” Maybe that was it… Maybe it was because I had a hard time with spelling… I still remember her laughter when I made mistakes.

I remember from him… “you’re worthless!” being said over, and over and over… I never remember  “I love you”, I never remember a hug… Not that I would have wanted one anyway.  The only physical contact I remember was playing Horsey when I was a little kid (a pleasant enough game) but then the violence of the day that usually overshadowed previous joy and any chance at safety.

I never, never, remember her holding me to comfort me.  Why wouldn’t she do that?  Why was I so repulsive? Why was I so bad?  Why couldn’t I just be good?  If I were good than I wouldn’t have been tied to a bed post for over 7 hours until I apologized — never mind that I specifically recall not even knowing why I was in trouble.  But if I were “good” maybe it wouldn’t have mattered.

If I were good than maybe somebody, somewhere down the line would have wanted me.  I used to lie awake on nights when I was so young and long for the death of my parents.  I’d long for someone to come and rescue me and for a real family to be mine someday.  I’d wonder if I’d ever have the courage to be bad enough to get my parents in trouble.  (It took some 10 years for that day to come, and I still to this day feel guilt for it.)

Why have I never been good enough to keep around, good enough to be wanted by someone other than God.  The number 1 question of my adolescence respondents loud in my mind again tonight… WHY?  They would have never sold my brother, he was too good… but they sold me, so I must have been too bad.

Maybe I’m just too far gone. Intellectually I know this is all a lie, but the forceful question has still left a scar on my heart.

May this blog serve as an education to those who do not yet know or understand the atrocities of trafficking and may it serve as an encouragement to those who understand it all too well.

(Post originally written 9/22/12)

The Pain of Healing

The healing process is no simple or sweet.  To heal from trauma one grieves the moments of happiness they lost.  Healing forces you to rip off protective scabs and pick away at the true cause of infection.  It’s a bitter process.  Below is a journal entry from a night of my healing when I felt particularly bitter.   I don’t share it because I want pity for my pain.  I share it because I want people to understand that it’s work, damn hard work to get through and heal from brokenness.  I want others to understand that it’s ok to be authentic in this struggle because there IS hope ahead.

“I don’t know what to do.  I have to get out of here- I have to get out of this pain- I have to run.  Feeling hurts just too damn bad- just too damn bad.  How do I do this, how to I get out safely?  How?  How is it ok to feel these feelings?  The pain is so deep it’s as if it will kill me itself.  The knife of despair twists tight against my gut, making every breath a battle.  Why do people choose to feel this?  Why- no – HOW is it supposedly healthy?  How can this much pain be healthy?

I’ve got to run, I’ve got to run, to leave, but there’s no where to go. Stuck. My 5 letter cuss word. STUCK. I feel stuck. Everything I need  to comfort me is just out of reach or off limits. I’m not going to go speed in my car, there’s nothing quiet to hit, I shouldnt drink, I won’t let myself cut, it’s stupid to think that empty sex would fill any void, my prayers feel feeble and I can’t type or write fast enough for the emotion to be expressed at the magnitude it needs to be. There’s no drug, legal or illegal that I’d chose and so I sit. Sit in the pain and try to write as damn fast as I possible can until the moment subsides. Still- the only phrase I can think of to express is low on the intelligence spectrum… F–k it. F–k it all. That’s all I’ve got tonight… Just a fuck basket full of angry and a longing heart waiting for God to comfort me.”

So much of what I was taught growing up was to stuff emotions, to not feel.  I couldn’t feel if I wanted to survive, I just couldn’t.  The emotion would have killed me back then.  So it was good at that time, for me to go numb.  It was necessary.  It’s now far less necessary and I understand that to truly be healthy I must emote… this just happens to be an incredibly painful process for a “newbie” such as me.

May this blog serve as an education to those who do not yet know or understand the atrocities of trafficking and may it serve as an encouragement to those who understand it all too well.

(Post originally written 8/16/12)

Woe is No One

“Woe is me.” the phrase does no one any good, ever.  I’d be lying though if I said that I’d never had one of those moments…  Or many of those moments.

Life seems to go wrong in just one too many areas.  You think you’re winning, only to find out the loss is an inning away.  You find a miracle to pay for one repair and then the car starts to make funny noises.  A death is remembered, another realized, the bank balance is red and health is fading.  That’s life. You want to throw in the towel and say, “I give.  I’m done.  You win.”  But again, that’s life.  I have to be too stubborn to give up, even when I want to.

One particular evening has been coming to memory a lot lately… An evening where I just wanted to give up.  I had been sent to see a new guy that night.  From his demeanor I could  quickly guess that he was kinky and loved the rough sort of sex.  Without going into unnecessary detail, I’ll say that I found myself in a bathtub and in fear of my life that night.  Managing to get away from this demon with only terror and a few cuts and bruises, I felt as though I’d won.

Reality then set in as I snuck my way back home, only partially clothed.  As I went, I tried to figure out what to tell my father (my pimp). No sex = no money and since I ran out on the crazy guy, I was returning with no money.  Fostering a strong spirit denial, by the time I entered through our garage I had myself convinced that he would understand I was in danger and would not be as angry.  I was wrong and was punished greatly that night.

It wasn’t the physical pain of a beating or fear of the John that impacted me the most from that night.  It was this doomed feeling that I couldn’t win.  No matter what, I was stuck loosing and so why even try?  I felt that feeling today and hated it just as much now as I did then.

Please God, help me find an area of “winning” that I can hang on to. Allow hope to scream its pride loudly in my life.

May this blog serve as an education to those who do not yet know or understand the atrocities of trafficking and may it serve as an encouragement to those who understand it all too well.

(Post originally written 8/14/12)


I ran into a bit of trouble today.  As I began to process it, all I could think of was how much I wanted a mom .

I hate myself so much for that… go ahead, scold me for that hate if you like, but it’s the truth of how I feel.  I’m an adult, who in a moment of need, is desperately longing for a kind mother to hold me.  Someone who will, in a trite way, tell me that everything’s going to be alright… like those moms on TV always do.  I hate this because it makes me feel childish instead of independent, weak instead of strong.

Thinking back over my life I can’t help but wonder how different things would have been if I’d had a mother I could talk to, one I didn’t have to take care of all the time.  I wonder what it would have been like to sit down for an awkward birds and the bees talk at the right age.  I wonder how her hair would have smelt tucking me into bed.  What would it have been like to argue with a mother and yet know, deep down, that she loved me.

I can’t even tell you how deep the pain stings to not be able to pick up a phone and have someone who’s known me from childhood answer.  I don’t miss… the mother I grew up with… I guess because I never really had her.  She was a woman who helped facilitate my abuse, not protect me.  So when I left my trafficking situation, I left her as well.

Many girls who end up in trafficking situations have dysfunction, abuse, neglect or absence in their family.  Whether they’re trapped by a boyfriend, a stranger, or a parent, brokenness in the relationship between child and mother or child and father is a common unifier.  Someone asked me recently, “What’s the best way prevent trafficking?”  The list of solutions are difficult but really rather straight-forward: adopt, foster, mentor, strengthen families, disciple.  In short, love unconditionally.

May this blog serve as an education to those who do not yet know or understand the atrocities of trafficking and may it serve as an encouragement to those who understand it all too well.

(Post originally written 8/8/12)

Art Stop – “Acquainted”

One of my favorite poets has long since been American author, Robert Frost.  I was flipping through a collection of his work recently and ran across this set of prose that I don’t ever remember reading before.  It’s entitled “Acquainted With the Night” is stirs with words of recognition of what some call a “lady of the night.”  It’s such a somber, and yet not condemning, poem about a seemingly lonely person walking along town in the depth of evening.  Frost’s words remind me so much of the numbness I felt after finishing with a John and having to return back home alone.

“Acquainted With the Night” by Robert Frost

I have been one acquainted with the night.

I have walked out in rain — and back in rain.

I have outwalked the furthest city light.

I have looked down the saddest city lane.

I have passed by the watchman on his beat

And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.

I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet

When far away an interrupted cry

Came over houses from another street,

But not to call me back or say good-bye;

And further still at an unearthly height,

One luminary clock against the sky

Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.

I have been one acquainted with the night.

May this blog serve as an education to those who do not yet know or understand the atrocities of trafficking and may it serve as an encouragement to those who understand it all too well.

(Post originally written 8/10/12)

Not One Of Those Days

This is one of those days where the trauma just feels heavy… When I want to curl up in bed all day, as to somehow not be touched again by the cruel fingers of the world.

I usually feel pretty normal.  I don’t live what most would call a typical life, but my day to day is far shriek away from the world of prostitution that used to encompass my every breath.  I don’t wake up every morning in fear of my life.  I no longer walk through 24 hour streams of chronic flashes back to abuse and shame.  I don’t anymore feel as though my scarlet letter is a neon flashing light to the world.

Today is not one of those days.  Today I feel I wear my scarlet letter so strongly that it is actually a neuse, hanging me high for all the world to see.  I don’t know why today, and yesterday, and the day before… I don’t know why these were those sort of days.  Maybe it was because of that anniversary, or the disappointment, or maybe this text message. Who knows?  I just woke up and felt as though the whole world saw my story, heard what I’ve done and snarled at me in response.

I miss the days that make me feel normal.  I miss the days when I forget every slam of my head into a wall, every choked back tear at a disgusting word, every touch of the thousand men.  I like the days when I forget and play like an ostrich with my head shoved deep in the cleansing sand.  Today is not one of those days.  Pity.

Maybe tomorrow will be that day again.  That’s where my brain has to stay- focused– on the bigger picture, and yet taking it one day at a time.  (Now there’s an impossible task when you’re mind is flooding with despair.)  I know it must be done; hope must be chosen.

You know, I suppose it’s a good sign… that these days are bothering me so much.  In the plainest of terms, today I feel like a good-for-nothing-whore.  What’s good is that I’m bothered by this.  I’m bothered because I suppose I don’t believe it’s true.  The first 20 years of my life this is all I was told that I was… useless.  For some 7,300 days I believed I was useless.  But today is not one of those days.

May this blog serve as an education to those who do not yet know or understand the atrocities of trafficking and may it serve as an encouragement to those who understand it all too well.

(Post originally written 8/5/12)


Photo credit: James Phillips

The scene opens… there are six or so of us sitting around a restaurant table discussing our favorite cocktails.  I found the saw in my drink in front of me and took a long sip.  “I can’t believe you’re drinking.  What about the child you’re carrying? Have you even thought of them?” snipped my friend to the left.  I was floored with betrayal.  I had recently taken a leap of desperate faith and confided  in her about this pregnancy.  I couldn’t believe that she had just outed me, and in such a nasty way.  Shame.

“How could you be pregnant?” said one friend. Shame.

“What were you thinking?” said another. Shame.

“Oh honey…” said a more compassionate voice. Shame.

I looked back at the original accuser with sharp eyes of pain, hate, and disbelief and rose from my chair.  In a fog I walked out of the restaurant, not even bothering to take any belongings with me.  I just had to get out.  I had to run away.  Shame.  Looking left, I stumbled along in the way of a drunk person headed home.  The present circumstances of my life had just come shouting into reality and I was sick.  Continuing to walk, I had no destination, I just wanted to keep moving… as if my crisis was oil that would just roll off my back.  But no.  Shame… still more shame.  I couldn’t decided if I wanted to die or just keep running.  I wasn’t even thinking clearly enough to figure out suicide.  I noticed a car’s open driver side door, climbed in, started the engine and speed away, not even caring what stranger saw me.  I just wanted to run away faster, much, much faster.  Shame.  There was a tree just up ahead.  As if I was deciding what to have for lunch, I plainly thought to myself, “I wonder if that would work,” and accelerated the car with purposeful aim.


I awoke this morning feeling immense shame.  This disgusting blanket of emotion was so heavy on my chest I felt as though someone was holding it down.  The above story was all a dream I had last night, with just a little too much truth mixed in there for my comfort.  But it got me thinking… about this idea of SHAME and how powerful it can be.  It’s so choking, so demeaning… such a lie full of truth.  I think much of the power in shame comes because it attacks the core of a person.  It screws with your very identity, not just telling you that you did a bad thing but that you are a bad thing.  With this in mind, I’m finding that the only way to beat it is to make sure that truth is securely married to the essence of the good you know yourself to be.  Hang on tight to that.  That truth is where I find my independence today.

May this blog serve as an education to those who do not yet know or understand the atrocities of trafficking and may it serve as an encouragement to those who understand it all too well.

(Post originally written 6/18/12)

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