“I was once an honors student who graduated ninth my senior class at Lillie B. Williamson High School in Mobile. I started smoking marijuana when I was 14 and the club life followed. I was 26 years old and on a binge when I met my boyfriend. We exchanged numbers and were on the fast track spending all of our time together. A few weeks later, he asked me to go to Florida with him, his brother, and his brother’s girlfriend. He told me I didn’t need money because he would handle everything. I thought we were in love, so I left my kids with my mother and got in the car. A couple of hours later in Pensacola, his brother pulled out a gun and forced me to take pictures to advertise a “two-girl special” on Backpage, an online marketplace for prostitution. There is no way I wanted to do that, but I had two children at home. I was scared of that gun in my face. I froze and did what they wanted me to do.
Sex trafficking wasn’t talked about in Mobile and I had never heard of it. I was 26 when I became enslaved. I didn’t realize it was happening to me. My pimps put it in my head it was my idea to advertise myself on Backpage and dance in strip clubs. They just gave me the extra push. I was required to bring in $1,000 to $1,500 a day with no days off and no pay. That was sex acts with 15 to 25 men a day. There were beatings on the days quota wasn’t made. I could not come back until I made the money. We stopped at about three in the morning and then they fed us. Sometimes I kept enough money for a pack of cigarettes, but I would have made them almost $400,000 in a year if I had been in that long.
The buyers did not care who I was or what was happening to me, but I put on a happy face and gave each man what he paid for. It was rape and sexual assault over and over, but I acted like I cared for each one. I would get beat for not giving the buyer what he wanted. I wondered what kind of man makes a call like this and why he wasn’t satisfied with his wife.”
We forced their captives to commit crimes, including kidnapping and armed robbery. I helped recruit a 17-year-old girl from Mobile girl with a baby, both abandoned by her boyfriend and our motel after an argument. My pimps hit me if If I stayed out too late. One girl tried to escape and they made us beat her and stomp on her. We broke some of her facial bones and her face was swollen the next morning. You do what you have to do to avoid getting beat yourself.
About month after my trafficking began, we were arrested in a prostitution sting in Harvey, La. I went to Jefferson Davis Parish Jail and told the officers prostitution was my idea because I always did what I wanted to do. The officer told me I had been trafficked by pimps and described the crimes I committed. He said it was time to decide if I wanted to get out of this life or not. He asked what the family had done for me while I was in jail. That got my attention. A trained policeman and task force asking the right questions saved my life.
I testified against my traffickers in court and the trauma at the trial and reliving it again was through the roof. I had a lot of support, but his lawyer tried to twist and turn and put it all on me like I this is what I wanted to do. Why do they put the victim through that? I felt like crap all over again. Even when it is over, it is always with you. They both went to jail, one for life. One day the other will be out and I fear revenge. It would be easier and safer to say I am done, avoid court and live my life. But I have to speak out and give another victim the courage to take steps to a better life.
I returned to Mobile but felt the pull of my old life. I enrolled at Eden House, a recovery home in New Orleans, to break my drug addiction and start over with my kids children. I am in college and work at Eden House as a survivor leader educating at-risk youth. I want to share my story to protect my younger sisters and to let other girls in Mobile know sex trafficking is real. It is as close as the next guy in the club.”
This is one of the survivor stories in the five-part series “Sexual Slavery in South Alabama” that I wrote for Lagniappe. The is from the first story that is in the weekly paper right now. It is also online at www.Lagniappemobile.com. Sex trafficking happens everywhere, in every community, and it is not what you think. Thank you to the victims and survivors who walked through their own hell one more time to share their stories to raise awareness and maybe save someone else from going through the same thing.