There are an estimated 403,000 people living in modern slavery in the United States (GSI 2018). Sex trafficking exists throughout the country. 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.
Christi became addicted to drugs while in high school. Though she went to rehab at the age of 18, after leaving her drug abuse continued. One day, her boyfriend told her that she would have to prostitute herself to get them drugs. Even after leaving this man, she met another who took her to Memphis and forced her to provide sexual services, using her addiction as a form of control. Christi states that when she got arrested, she hit rock bottom and called her mom to help her get out of the situation. Christi is now a wife and mother active in her church and community. She supports the local drug court as a mentor and speaks publicly about sex trafficking and awareness.
As a young child I had a really good life. I was very involved with church, I was a good student, I had a lot of friends. I guess the only bad thing was when I was 6 years old my parents got divorced.
When I was 14 years old I started smoking marijuana just here and there and experimenting with that. When I was 16 I was at a party and there was a lot drugs and alcohol there. I had drunk a lot. The next thing I remember is waking up in a park and my pants were off and I was left just lying in the park.
After that I didn’t really know how to feel, how to act, what to do, I didn’t know who to talk to about it. But all I did was just black people out I didn’t let them in. Later that year I started dating a boy from school, he was a marijuana dealer and quickly after began selling cocaine and that’s when everything really spiralled out of control.
I quit going to school, I moved out of my house, I was just on cocaine every day all day. Our relationship became very abuse physically, emotionally. Shortly after breaking up with him my mom stepped in and she finally committed me to rehab. I was 18 then.
While I was in rehab I met a girl there. So when we got out of rehab I moved in with her. I didn’t think my life could get any worse. I went from cocaine to crack cocaine.
I had met another man. For a while there we were just going to Chicago and Rockford and picking drugs up and bringing them back. After a couple of times of doing that, we were in Chicago and basically he said this time to get them you have to prostitute yourself and this is what’s gonna happen, we’re gonna go to a hotel and this is what you’re gonna do.
I met another man and he took me to Memphis, Tennessee and when we got there I quickly realised what was gonna happen again. I feel like it was more the drugs than anything holding me there. But it was also him because he knew that had that power over me. And if I didn’t work that day and I didn’t go out and prostitute myself I didn’t have any. I was just taken advantage of every day, and I was raped, I was beaten, I was stole from. I was just stripped of everything physically and emotionally.
I remember walking down the street one day and a cop pulled over. And you could obviously tell by looking at me that I’m not okay, there’s something going on, and he just said are you ok. And I said yeah I’m fine. Because I was just so scared, I didn’t want to go back to a police station. I just remember after he pulled away I just like, I just wanted him so badly to come back and I couldn’t, I couldn’t change that and a part of me wanted to just go back so bad. But where was I gonna go, who was I gonna call? And who was gonna come get me because who really cared?
So I was stuck in a little jail in Arkansas. That was my bottom that was when I just realised like I cannot live like this anymore. I felt like I was slowly dying. I called my mom and she said you know she’d be there to get me. I’ve been clean since October 2009 and that was it. I just never looked back.
My mom is a wonderful lady. When I got home it was just open arms and love and there was really no reconciling to do. When you hit those teen years, no one likes their parents, they’re all crazy, they’re old, they don’t understand like. But you’re parents gonna be your best friend and they’re the one whose gonna be there forever, and it’s just so important to to not follow in your friends and what they do. And do what you think is right. If I could go back there are so many things. I never would have smoked that first joint and I would never have popped that first pill because I really, that is what took me to this life.
It could happen to anyone. I mean you hear all these crazy stories but that’s never gonna be you, and it could be.
Narrative produced by Braking Traffik