Sex trafficking is a form of modern slavery that exists throughout the United States. 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.
Michaela tell of how she ran away from an abusive household in ninth grade and became homeless. One day she was approached by a man at the mall who claimed to work for an entertainment industry and jumped at the chance to get off the street. This survivor was blindfolded, put in a car and taken to a location where she was stripped and raped. After five to six weeks of ‘training’ she was forced to provide sexual services. It was only after her trafficker was arrested on unrelated charges that she was able to escape, however continues to provide sex work due to economic need.
[My mother] made it clear from day one that I’d screwed up her life by being born. At five years old I walked into the bedroom…to show her a paint-by-number that I painted for my grandmother. She was with another man and [when she saw me] she went ballistic. She decided that I was a whore… and that I needed to be taught a lesson about what a whore is. She offered [her boyfriend] the opportunity to penetrate me and told him it was a punishment and to make it hurt. He was more than happy to accommodate. They decided [raping me] was a nice fringe benefit to their relationship and he continued for years with full knowledge of my mother.
There was an emphasis on keeping this a secret. My mother made a point of showing me the county jail and said if I told anybody that’s where I would go…I was terrified of that jail so I kept it quiet. I was an accelerated student and hid my issues under the guise of intelligence. Until 6th grade I was a straight A student. In 6th grade puberty hit and I changed. The first time I was offered access to alcohol and drugs it occurred to me that I could do what I was doing at home to older boys and get beer and drugs…I started ditching class and it got out of control, but my father was on School Board so no one wanted to draw attention to what was going on.
At the end of 9th grade my parents told me they were moving to a new house that didn’t have room for me and I would need to get out…I hitchhiked to Cincinnati to my best friend from 8th grade and I thought I could live with her…when I got there my friend’s parents realized that I was a runaway…they wanted nothing to do with [me]. They called DSS, the police, and I was terrified of police so I split. I spent all my money on pacman and space invaders and then realized I had no money for food and no place to stay and that is where the enormity of being homeless really hit. I thought I was slick and would be good at shop lifting, but got chased repeatedly from 7/11. So I started staking out café’s and wait until someone ordered a sandwich and I would snatch it and run into traffic…I slept in a cemetery because everyone there was dead and they weren’t bothered by my presence, plus the sprinklers went on and it was a way to get clean.
One day I was in the mall and this gorgeous guy walks up to me. He looked like my teenage crush Lindsey Buckingham, the lead singer of Fleetwood Mac…He was very charming. He picked out that I was a homeless runaway, that somebody must have hurt me and he was very sympathetic…He told me he ran an entertainment agency and that I seemed intelligent and beautiful and smart…I jumped at the chance because I did want to get off the street and work. He said I could audition…I said ok, but I had one question, was this prostitution because I didn’t want to be a prostitute. He stood up indignantly and got mad and said he was wrong about me and I wasn’t professional or intelligent, that was a stupid question and the deal was off and he stormed off. I really wanted to work so I ran up to him and begged for another chance and made a deal that there would be no more questions…and he took me out to his car and made this big production about corporate espionage and so he blindfolded me and covered it with sunglasses and a hat. At this point of course my instincts were telling me this was wrong, but I was in the back of his car and didn’t know what to do…He said we were going downtown to his office building, except…we pulled up to a garage because I could hear the garage door going up…I knew something was wrong and could smell the musty basement smell. At that point I was sobbing and he spotted the tears and leveled me with a backhand and told me that professionals don’t cry and I was going to lose my chance at the job unless I stripped. So I did because I’d kind of gotten the point about who was in charge. I stripped and he told me to put my hands over my head and I could feel something wrapping around my wrists. I didn’t really understand what was happening and then what I was standing on gave out and I was hanging by my wrists, at which point it becomes really hard to breathe because all your weight falls on your diaphragm. I was reduced to panting like a dog, very focused on just trying to breathe. Then he raped me and hit me with some kind of whip hundreds of times and a kind of stick and he told me I could hang there until I died and he would throw my skinny ass into the Ohio river or I could go work for him…I agreed to work for him. That was where he explained that I was gong to work as a paid submissive. That sadist clients wanted what they viewed as a masochist, or painslut, that’s what I was going to do.
We did a lot of sensory deprivation. He showed me his dungeon and we practiced endlessly on each pieces of equipment as to what it felt like and how much it hurt and how I was supported so response. We also worked on my cover story…if I was questioned I was to say this was all consensual.
After about 5-6 weeks of intense torture and rape he thought my training was done and I could see clients. That’s how I got started in sex work.
I was able to get out after three years because of a fluke. He was arrested on charged not related to me and I was able to get away. I escaped to Vegas and over time rebuilt my life. For quite a few years I compartmentalized everything that had happened. I got a job as a flight attendant. I got back into sex work in my forties because I had a series of major medical issues. The flight attendant position caused a series of blood clots in my legs and I lost my job over this and lost my health insurance and was out of work for months. I tried to avoid sex work by taking any job I could get, but I found that even working full time I had no food. I was stealing food out of Kroger if I wanted to eat. It came down to needing money this minute for rent, so I posted on backpage and started working as an escort, which was a very different scenario than the teenager coerced. As an escort I can screen my clients and control to some degree my environment...I advertise in various venue and work for myself as an independent.
I continue to be a sex worker because of the economy. I don’t have high living standards…but I have not been able to pay me a job that enables me to live…I am no fan of sex work…I just need the money.
Courtesy of Daily Kos