“I once called the police after being beat by a john who robbed me at a motel. I told the female officer I was raped, but she said I shouldn’t have put myself in that situation. I thought she was right. I blamed everything on myself because I broke, and agreed to become an escort. If believed if I got out, my family would pay the price.
It was getting hot in Mobile and the sex trafficking ring that held me began moving the girls to Pensacola. My boyfriend, who was part of the family trafficking me, was driving me. We drove through a mall parking lot on the way to a gas station and I saw my younger sister walking into a store. The police told my family the people I was with were committing robberies at motels and if my family heard from me to call them. My sister saw me and called the police. She gave them my boyfriend’s number and they set up a drug call.
The ring also sold drugs but made much more money from trafficking girls because they sold us over and over with less risk of getting caught. My intuition told me the call was from an undercover officer. Minutes later we were surrounded by police cars. Exhausted, I fell asleep in handcuffs in the back seat. They found my fake I.D. and booked me on that. A charge of identity theft would become my point of breaking free. It was a coincidence that my sister saw me when we were leaving town. God’s timing was for my sister to save my life because who knows where they would have taken me after Pensacola or what they would have done with me.
At the time, I didn’t know what my sister did. I thought calling my family from jail was impossible because I was cut off from them. I remembered the number of Sam, a man who had been kind and had called me several times. He bailed me out and drove me away. Having detoxed from approximately three weeks in jail, I began to feel emotions again. At a red light in the middle of the night, I looked at Sam and saw him in color. For the first time in almost two years, my world was no longer gray and I had a little bit of hope. We have been together from the moment he picked me up.
Six years later, I was married to Sam and watching an episode of Cops about human trafficking, expecting to see girls chained in a basement or brought in from another country. Instead, it was girls with stories like mine. I realized that was me. I made poor choices, but understood I didn’t choose to be a prostitute or to stay in the family. I was targeted and manipulated. I was in a delicate spot and they got me.
I remember walking along Airport Boulevard and public places with bruises and black eyes from getting beat all of the time. I was 18 to 20 years old during those years and looked even younger. No one asked if I was okay. Not once in this Bible Belt did anyone stop and ask if I needed help or if they could pray for me. But my sister kept praying and God must have listened.
I went through years of counseling and still have nightmares, but Jesus is the reason for my freedom. I am telling my story because I want to help other victims. I want them to know they can be free.”
This is the conclusion of Michelle’s story from “It Can Happen to Anyone” in Lagniappe. You can pick the whole story up in the Lagniappe boxes in Mobile and Baldwin Counties or read it online at www.Lagniappemobile.com. This is the fifth story in a six-part series “Sexual Slavery in South Alabama.”