(This characterization was inspired by research and interviews with human trafficking victims who relayed their own actual experiences with me, and who chose to remain anonymous. -Leslie Salzlllo)
If I don’t meet your needs, if I don’t keep you coming back, my pimp/traffickers will beat me, starve me, torture me and sometimes say they will kill me.
My parents seemed to always be disappointed with me, so I ran away. I was at the bus station, out of money, scared and had nowhere to sleep when a man and his girlfriend offered to help me. They gave me a place to stay until I figured things out. Turns out he had lots of girlfriends, but he told me that the first time he laid eyes on me, he knew he wanted to be with me. He treated me like a princess, bought me new clothes, jewelry, and took me out to nice places. We were in love. Then, he said it would be fun for us to get high and do some crack together. He said the high would make me feel great, and it did—at first. Now I feel like I want to die when I can’t get more.
On most days I don’t care if I die, but my pimp/traffickers tell me if I kill myself or try to run away, they’ll murder my family or my friends and they describe how they will do it. I can’t—I won’t let that happen.
You’re so much older than me. Why wouldn’t you try to help and protect me? I could be your daughter, or your granddaughter.
I’m not a teenage prostitute. I’m a slave—a victim. Sometimes I’m sold 10 or 20 times a day. I’m shuffled from one man to another and have to make sure I clean myself up between Johns so I’m not rejected, because we get beaten for that.
You think I make good money. My traffickers take all my money and tell me I have to work to pay for things I never asked for, but I never seem to make enough for them to let me go. They charge me rent to live in a dirty, nasty basement and sometimes treat other girls and me no better than animals. They want us to think this is the best we will ever have in life. I don’t believe it.
You can see I’m underage. They tell you I’m 18 and smile, but you know I’m not, and you block it out. Because you know being with me makes you a rapist. You could have helped me so many times before, but instead you made me do things that were painful and humiliating. I couldn’t cry out and say you were hurting me because I have to make you believe I’m enjoying every bit of it.
You can save me. You can report what you see, even if it’s after the fact. There are ways for you to leave anonymous tips and tell authorities what’s going on. No one will come after you, but maybe someone might come and rescue us. And it will be because you— because you decided to do the right thing.
I can’t say these things to you out loud. I can’t even tell the police because some of them are friends with my traffickers so I don’t know who to trust.
But when you see me now, or when you’re finished with me, look into my eyes and hear what I’m not saying. I’m not a hooker. I didn’t want this. I don’t desire you—I’m afraid of you. And I want to go home.
Report human trafficking
For more information, contact the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC), which operates 24 hours, 7 days a week. Or you can call their Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 and/or text BeFree (233733). If you suspect any kind of human trafficking, you can submit a tip via ThePolarisProject.org.
The FBI is cracking down on “Johns”—the buyers of underage girls and boys. Without demand, this $150 billion dollar crime industry would crumble. Law enforcement agencies are conducting stings to catch traffickers and Johns in more and more states. Victims are brought to safe havens where they receive services that will help them get clean/sober and help them on their journey to recovery.
There are several things you can do. Share as many stories about human trafficking on your personal social networks as you can (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram…). Talk to people about it, and sign/share petitions like the one below or others. Help bring awareness to this horrific modern day slavery and sex trade. Learn how to recognize the signs and never be afraid to report suspicions. You might save lives.
Sign HERE: Tell U.S. law enforcement to crack down on $150 billion human trafficking epidemic