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1997 (Narrative date)

Though most of the slaves in the US have been trafficked from 35 or more countries, some are American citizens. Christine, of European and American Indian ancestry, was born and trafficked in Minnesota—which is currently a sex trafficking pipeline to larger cities, like Chicago. In fact, incidents of sex trafficking have been discovered in all 50 US states, involving victims born and raised in the US, as well as those trafficked from abroad. Girls as young as 12 years old are forced to have sex seven days a week, with 10-15 people a day, and meet a quota of $500-1000 a night. Most likely, almost half of people currently enslaved in the US are in the sex industry.

As Christine notes, she was “one such girl”—trafficked by her family as a child. Her narrative lays out the gender dynamics of slavery, whereby traffickers and pimps attempt to divide and conquer women: “They rape us in front of our mothers and grandmothers; they rape our grandmothers and mothers in front of us…They want us to dislike and distrust other women and girls.” But Christine counters this attempt at division with her assertion of “a bond deeper than blood to the very women and girls they tried to make you hate,” and with her first-person plural voice: “we endure…we are women in search of freedom.”

I was born a slave. I was born into sexual slavery in the state of Minnesota in the United States of America 29 years ago. I was born into a prostitution ring, a family of pimps and pornographers and prostitutes. The men pimped the women and girls and sometimes the boys. They made pornography. They sold us in whorehouses and at live sex shows. The men used me in pornography in basements, barns, houses, warehouses, isolated wooded areas, and public buildings.

I come from the farms and suburbs and cities of the United States of America. I come from the strangled, suffocated, mangled voices of the raped, beaten, and starved. I was trafficked throughout the country, from state to state by car, by bus and by plane. I am not alone standing here before you today. I am not alone in my testimony, and I am not alone in spirit. I have many friends and acquaintances who have endured the tortures, rapes, beatings and degradations that pimps and johns hand out like candy.

In prostitution rings women and girls are taught to be sexually submissive by men who refer to themselves as masters, by men who are so cowardly as to rape, beat, and starve women and girls. Women and girls raised in prostitution rings are sexually abused and otherwise tortured beginning in infancy. They are trained to be prostitutes, to sexually service men. The men are masters of torture and terror who are highly trained in torture techniques. Sometimes these pimp masters are doctors and dentists in the outside world. They rape girls as young as one and two years old.

I was one such girl. I can tell you some of the things they did to me and other girls and women, but there is still much that I cannot speak of. These men gang rape us. They rape us with dogs. They rape us with knives and guns and beer bottles. They tie us down, chain us to bedposts and basement poles and each other. They make us eat shit and maggots and urine. They rape us with masks on their faces. They rape us in the name of Satan and Hitler and De Sade. They rape us in front of our mothers and grandmothers; they rape our grandmothers and mothers in front of us. They play games with us. They force us to choose who will live, which child or aunt or grandmother will live and which one will die. They hold mock executions.

But sometimes they do kill us. You never know when they’re only joking, having some fun, or when they will pull the trigger. These men want us, the women and girls being raped, to feel responsible for their actions. They want us to feel like it is our fault that our mother, sister, daughter, grandmother is being destroyed in front of our eyes. They want us to dislike and distrust other women and girls. They want us to feel utterly powerless to stop them. They want us to feel dead, look dead, be dead. Above all else, they want us immobilized. They want to consume our lives, take our freedom with no resistance whatsoever…

It is no small achievement to survive sexual slavery. Survivors are split into pieces, fragmented, broken, filled with despair, pain, rage, and sorrow. We have been hurt beyond belief. We are silent; we are numb. Our eyes see, our ears hear, but we do not tell. Our voices are non-existent, but even if they did exist, who would believe what we have to say? Who would listen? Who would care? We are dirty, ruined, despised, the whores of the earth. The men who use us throw us away. We are their garbage to piss on, to pile up in the corner. We are their property, they own us. The rest of you turn your backs, avert your eyes, pretend not to see, go on your way. You leave us to the predators.

But we endure. We survive. It should be asked, why do these women stay alive? Sometimes, maybe much of the time, we don’t even know. Sometimes we do wish we were dead; we wish they would kill us; we can’t take it anymore. So why do we stay alive? We stay alive because we do not want them, the masters, to win. We stay alive because there is something we want, something we seek. We may not even know exactly what it is; we may not have ever experienced it. Or we may have known it only for a moment when something deep inside, deeper than even they can penetrate, stirred, and we felt alive, joyous, loved, at peace. We stay alive because we are women in search of our lives; we are women in search of freedom.

I stayed alive because my belief in something better than what they offered was greater than their hatred and destruction. I stayed alive because I wanted to be free, more than anything, I wanted to be free. I wanted to live in a world of respect. I wanted to be free from them. I wanted their hands off me; I wanted their bodies off me and their dicks out of me. I wanted to not be sold. I wanted to not be bought. I wanted to not be raped and filmed and forced to smile and beg and plead for mercy. I wanted them to stop telling me who and what I was. I wanted to decide how I felt, what I thought, what I believed and who I loved. I wanted to eat the foods that I wanted to eat, run the way I wanted, be silly or thoughtful or serious. Quite simply, I wanted a life of autonomy and agency…

It is only recently that I have been free from their sexual and physical abuse and to be honest, I don’t always know what to do with myself. I was beaten and raped, or at least verbally assaulted virtually every day of my life. The intensity of my emotions doesn’t match up to a normal life. Other survivors talk about this, too. Even though we have escaped, we live in the pimp’s world. We have flashbacks and night tremors. The pimps harass us, so we spend much of our time waiting, wondering when they’re going to hurt us again. Our worldview is one of war, constant rapes and beatings. We may escape, but we will always be isolated, we will never be part of society. We know too much, we have seen too much. The world does not want to acknowledge the truth of women’s lives…

I escaped the pimps. It took me more than twenty years to do it, but I did it…I want to be free and I want my sisters to be free. And I will be free, and I will help women and girls escape or I will die trying. I have been in a sort of exile myself, on the run, surviving, remembering, waiting for them to kill me, gathering my strength. I have been outsmarting them, outfighting them, and speaking out to help other women and girls…

It is difficult to know what to do with yourself when all you have known is chaos and destruction and the streets. You’re not good company, you’re not polite or talking or thinking about socially acceptable things. You’re talking about your life. You’re talking about the lives of other women and girls who are still held captive, who are still being hurt, who may not survive. You feel an urgency, a bond deeper than blood to the very women and girls they tried to make you hate…

There are many women, strong women, brave women all across the world who are rising up to meet and to end the tidal wave of male violence against women. We escape and we organize and we educate and we go back down into the trenches to pull out our sisters. This is war, a battle of life and death. A battle that women must win…The pimps do not know state or national boundaries; women in battle must not know them either. We must be on the look out for each other. The brothels of the world house all the women of the world. We must go into those brothels, search one another out. We must break down the doors, beat back the pimps, and get out the women and girls held in cages. As I go back, back into the brothels and porn houses, I will be on the look out for you. I hope I will never find you there, but if do, you have my word that I will lend you my hand.

Narrative as written by the narrator, 1997, and presented in St. Petersburg, Russia with the title “Surviving Sexual Slavery: Women In Search of Freedom.