I think the biggest part of my personal story is that I grew up in an all-white school district. My parents were middle-class, hardworking individuals and I still ended up in the trafficking lifestyle. Nobody is immune to it, it doesn’t matter what demographic you come from, doesn’t matter your skin color, doesn’t matter how much money you have, and whatever your orientation is, it doesn’t matter. Anybody can end up in that lifestyle. I think because we have stereotypes of who ends up in that life and why or how. You know the stereotypical woman that ends up in that life. Young men end up in it as well, people assume that they’re alcoholics or drug addicts and I was none of the above.
As a child, I was a victim of rape by two teenage boys. At 10 years old that affects a child. I grew up thinking that I was ugly, that I was horrible, that nobody loved me or wanted me. When children are changed like that many times they end up in a promiscuous lifestyle. As I got older that’s how I connected with individuals. I felt that that was the only way a man could pay attention to me or a boyfriend, which then led me to interact with an individual who was in trafficking, believing that he loved me, and ended up in a long-term domestic violence relationship. Near the end of that relationship, my significant other had me believing that I truly was crazy and I thought that maybe I was. I had undiagnosed adult ADHD, my thoughts get jumbled up a lot and then I thought maybe he is right.
I left on my own and I did not get therapy for a long time, which probably wasn’t the best. But when I was finally strong enough to talk about it to a therapist which was the scariest thing, it reinforced that everything that I went through did not devalue me as a human being and as a woman, that I am important, that I am strong, and that people still will love me. I have an amazing friend support system as well that really embraced me even though they know what I went through. They didn’t shame me because that’s the biggest thing, when people talk about this kind of lifestyle in public, they are afraid of being shamed and I didn’t get any of that. I also started working in a nonprofit so it kind of got my foot back in the door and learned about other invested individuals in the community so just going to a nonprofit and volunteering is a good place to find people.
Working with the unsheltered population, which is what I did for six years, you can’t find more authentic, genuine people than individuals who are experiencing homelessness. I’ve learned that expressing my feelings through them is OK. You start to find people that you connect with in other non-profits or other companies or other corporations. It’s really about going to find somewhere you like and exploring from there. It’s a lifelong process but when you know you have support systems and can recognize that there are other people in this world that feel just like I do and I am not the only one. I know I am not alone.
Interviewed by Nicole Lehrhoff ’23, photo by Anaya Battle ’22