There are an estiamted 403,000 people living in modern slavery in the United States. 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.
Tika ran away from home at 12 years old. She was kidnapped, beaten, raped and sold for days. After this experience Tika remained on the streets, being forced to prostitute herself by a pimp. It was after being badly beaten by her pimp at 18 years old that she was finally able to leave her situation.
I was 12 years old when I first got trafficked. My home life was very violent because of the things that I've been through in my life. Being sexually molested at a young age having a family member not believe me when I told them that it happened by the hands of a family member I felt that no one was there to protect me and no one cared or loved me.
When I was 12 years old I was a runaway. I was just walking around in the streets and a guy pulled up on the side of me and asked me if I was okay. I told him I was fine and I started to walk away, and it started to rain. He was like “well just come sit in the car with me until the rain stops”. I was cold and wet so I, I agreed.
I was basically kidnapped and raped and beaten sold for days. So from that moment on I just stayed in the streets, I couldn't imagine myself getting out of that situation. I felt worthless, I had little to no self-esteem. I would literally work early in the morning and I would see kids my age going to school and it was hard for me to look at those kids because there was a lot of shame.
The one way that I was able to get a break from the life was to basically go into a store and steal in plain sight while my pimp was outside in the car. If I was caught stealing I would eventually get arrested and I would go to juvenile hall. For most girls or most kids they would see it as a punishment but it was structure in my life, it was a safe place and I knew that no one will be able to harm me.
My life basically changed once I was beaten by my pimp. And I was in the hospital for a short stint of time and I knew that this was my way out. I was turning 18 and there was no more safety net. So if I was to get in trouble if I was to steal to get away from a pimp, I was going to the county and that was a whole other world that I did not want to be a part of. So I took that opportunity to leave California in hopes of leaving the life.
I realized that I was a victim and then I became a survivor and now I am a warrior.
What I would tell the twelve-year-old me. I would tell the twelve-year-old me that it's going to get better. I would tell her that your life may seem like its being sacrificed right now but it's going to help so many other women. So just keep on going.
As told to Buzzfeed