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.
Taylor was forced to provide sexual services by a man who told her he would care for her. Taylor tells of how she was completely controlled by this man and branded with a tattoo. It was only when her mother saw her on Backpage and reported it to the police that she was able to leave her situation.
A few months after my seventeenth birthday I found myself trying to survive on the streets. This is my story.
When I was a kid I dreamed of being like prom queen or I don’t know, cheerleading captain, girly little things. I just wanted to be loved. I wanted to be picked by the cute boy that you have a crush on. I just wanted to be special to somebody else. Trafficking victims, they can come from any walk of life. I don’t care if they’re from a nurturing home with like you know a great mom and dad, real good support system. Any girl can be trafficked if she feels like she’s got something missing on the inside. When I met my trafficker, he promised me that we would be taken care of, that I would always have food, I would always have a place to sleep. He was gonna love me, I had a home. We were like a family, it made it all seem like a dream come true, you know.
He wasn’t, well it wasn’t what I thought it was gonna be between him and me. He started beating me. He used to promise that I would never have to walk the track and I started walking the track, I started going to truck stops. He told me what to wear, how to dress, how to do my hair. He had completely control over everything and it was just pretty much anything he said is what I did.
My mom saw my Backpage ad. It was just mind-blowing. I was like my mom turned in my Backpage ad, huh? And they were like yeah she did, she tipped us of. My mom was doing for me what I couldn’t do for myself. She knew I would never leave that man.
Looking back it was the best thing that ever happened. Because I would still be down in those streets.
End Slavery came in to my life when I was in a facility down here in Nashville. My therapist and I just had an instant bond and I started telling her everything. And she was like I’m going to introduce you to somebody. And then Sheila came and met me. It was awesome she was just so loving, and she was like I’ve got a company and you’re gonna love us and we love you, and she meant it.
At first, I used to really own the tattoo, I used to be like I love this tattoo. And then I got in to treatment and I started realising I was literally branded against my will. Like a piece of property, I wasn’t my own person anymore. I was his. Because it’s very easy to be able to be like I’m not dirty anymore, you’re not a part of me anymore, until you realise, they’re literally a part of you across your neck. That’s not something you can ignore, it’s not something you can cover up easily. Sheila said, we can get that off of you. And I went to my first session and I remember feeling so independent for the first time, like completely separated from him. And I remember feeling like so excited because I was just like, I’m my own person now, you know. It just makes it that much more real. It just goes right along with my healing process, you know it takes a long time. And so does getting a tattoo removed.
Narrative provided by End Slavery Tennessee