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.
Marlene was 15 years old when she was forced in to prostitution by a couple that lived in her neighbourhood. She was taken around the country forced to provide sexual services for eight months. Carson now works to provide services and support to other young girls have been trafficked in to prostitution.
I am a survivor of human trafficking. I was taken when I was 15 years old and put into prostitution. And so, many many years, now as I am much older, I want to go back and help girls that I knew were being victim to this issue.
There was a couple that moved in to my neighbourhood. Their house was the safe house, the hangout house. And they asked four girls including myself to ask our parents to go to New York City. We thought we were going to go shopping and see a Broadway show. And it ended up we were sold into prostitution.
We came back to Columbus, Ohio and we’re thinking the nightmare was over, we would be fine, we just gotta get through what just happened. Two weeks later I was walking to school and I seen his car pull up, and as I started to run he told me to get in the car and when I didn’t his brother snatched me and threw me in the car and that’s when they kept me for eight months.
And so, we went around the country in prostitution and that time.
Our restaurant is kind of a front for helping girls. Because while a pimp won’t let you go to counselling centre or to go and get help, but they’ll let you eat. So, if you can get in the door of the restaurant, we can get you some services and support that you need.
There’s a lot being done politically. There’s a lot being done as far as education and awareness, things like that. What’s not being done is on the streets at the grassroots, where the victims are. There are 15-year-old girls that are prostituted right outside this door. Matter of fact one that stands on the next corner from here. So, when I see that, I don’t care what the politicians are doing. You know I’m just being honest, I don’t care about that. I need someone to help that girl that’s on that corner and get her away from the pimp that’s on the next corner watching her.
There’s a world that happens after 10 o clock at night in Columbus, Ohio that most people don’t even know exists. And so that is the biggest weapon against us, is our ignorance.
The tri-state of human trafficking is like a teenage girl being raped over and over and over again. No one wants that to happen. I wouldn’t thought in a million years that I would be helping victims of human trafficking first of all, but the pain that I’ve gone through over this issue has totally made me into who I am today. And I will never stop doing this work, I know that.
There was a poem that I had written oh my gosh I was probably 12 years old, and I literally would recite this poem during the roughest times of this whole thing and it just gave me a lot of hope.
Remember the promises of God, for they are more precious than fine stone
And they will be there to comfort you when you’re down and all alone
When it seems like your fault on every hand
Always remember his word, on that you can stand
God’s word is faithful and God’s word is true
Whatever he says, that’s just what he’ll do
Original Narrative can be found here