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.
Rachel became involved in drug abuse at a young age. Her trafficker used her addiction and threats against her friends and family to force her in to prostitution.
Drugs and alcohol became part of the picture at a very young age, seven, eight, nine years old.
I don't know that I necessarily processed anything beyond surviving.
I don't know if it's still there or not. So you could get from the back rooms down onto the porch pretty easily even as a little kid, knowing that it wasn't that hard to do. So that's where that all started, really.
He used my friend, threats against him first of all. "If you don't do what I'm telling you to do, "then I'm gonna hurt him," and those kinds of things as ammunition basically to rope me and then started with threats against my family and other people that I knew. First, it was just random other people coming over to the house next door, and then it was like, well, I think that we can probably do more or get more out of you, so let's go to the house down the street or around the corner, or across town. So it was not right away but almost right away within a couple of days.
Probably three, four times a week, mostly at night. He would either come and tell me, this time, or when this happens then I'm gonna need you to do this and leave your house. Or, he would tell my friend to tell me this, after dinner tonight pretend you're sick or something along those lines. And then, "Go to bed early and then sneak out." Those kinds of things. Looking back on it now, I feel like it was probably a lot better orchestrated than I even comprehended at that point in time. Of course back then, we didn't have the language that we have today. In my frame of reference, growing up, I understood that to be me being a prostitute. It didn't take long, probably a few months, before somebody else kind of took that role over, and he was still involved for a little bit, but at some point he kind of fades out, and just off the face of the radar, basically. And then it was just different people, to be honest, that today it would be this guy and a couple days later it would be another guy. But you always knew who was in charge, and who was going to follow through on whatever threats that they made when they came along. I don't know that I necessarily processed anything beyond surviving from today to tomorrow. Or figuring out how to keep my mouth shut long enough so that I didn't actually say the wrong thing to the wrong person.
When drugs and alcohol became part of the picture, because a person can really only take those kinds of threats so much before they start saying, "Well, I'm gonna tell anyway." So drugs and alcohol became part of the picture at a very young age, seven, eight, nine years old. You know, people are really good about not leaving marks, super obvious marks. So a lot of my bruises and things like that were in places that you wouldn't see unless you were bathing or something along those lines, but definitely there were bones that I didn't know could hurt. And muscles and things like that that I didn't even know a person had.
For my dad, actually, when I finally kind of came clean to them about what had happened. This was actually years after the fact, but, he said one of his big keys that he just recognized later was that I stopped talking. I was a very jibber-jabbery child, and I'm sure that's hard to imagine, (laughter) but I just stopped talking at one point about the time that I was six almost seven, he said just stopped talking. And that makes so much sense now, but then, he didn't know what that was about or really had no way to kind of investigate that more.
And then I had a couple of doctors wonder, "What's going on with you?" But there really wasn't any consistent, "I'm seeing all this physical trauma to you, "what's going on?"
A lot of the things that I would actually go see the doctor for were easily explained by being around a bunch of kids. Pushed down the hill sometimes, you know. Skiing, quote unquote skiing down this hill back behind us actually even as little kids. "Spraining my ankle" and those kinds of things. And after a while, it got to the point where I was very uncooperative. It sounds so weird to say those kinds of things, but in terms of business, I wasn't profitable anymore. And basically said, you either need to let me go, or you need to do whatever you're gonna do, because I'm done, I can't keep doing this anymore. After a couple of weeks of silence, I got the notification, basically, to meet them downtown. And they made a pretty significant threat to myself and my family, and then I never heard from him again after that.
For any of the victims and survivors out there that there is a life beyond that. And don't give up, because we are fighting for them. And if you're out there and you wanna reach out to us, then we can get together and hopefully kind of help each other.
We have a responsibility as a community to stop ignoring it. There were a lot of people, obviously looking back, who could've intervened and didn't. And because of that, there are countless other kids and adults, even, who are still being victimized, because we didn't recognize it back then. So we have a responsibility as a community to step up and say enough is enough.
Narrative provided by NET Nebraska