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THE HUMAN TRAFFICKING PROBLEM IN PLACER COUNTY

In the words of Stand Up Placer survivors

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Two Placer County survivors graciously answered questions about their time being trafficked to help prevent other residents from being exploited. Because it’s a sensitive nature, the two survivors are anonymous.

The nonprofit Stand Up Placer empowers survivors and educates communities to stand up to domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking.

For more information on Stand Up Placer, call 530-823-6224 or go online to standupplacer.org. The Stand Up Placer crisis line is 800-575-5352.

 

First survivor’s answers

Looking back, did any previous life events or other factors contribute to you being trafficked?

“Looking back, I began to show signs of depression at age 7 and had suicidal thoughts by age 12. I suffered from low self-esteem and was sexually assaulted at age 17. When I was 18, I began participating in recreational drug use in college. At 19, I was in a codependent and violent intimate partner relationship. By 20 when I was trafficked, I had participated in reckless behavior and was in my deepest low of depression. I believe all of these factors contributed to my being trafficked.”

 

What tactics did your trafficker use to keep you from leaving?

“There were many threats of hurting myself and my family. Since he had my license with my parents’ address and had family from my hometown, I did not take these as idle threats. Each time, I had been caught trying to escape, I was physically beaten, threatened with a gun, strangled until I lost consciousness, and given burning hot and freezing cold showers. Out of each of these instances, I had three near-death experiences where my breathing stopped.”

 

What aspects of the life are most appealing and/or glamorized to youth? What pulls them in?

“The idea of a boyfriend, promises of love, being sold a dream of never having to work again, and quick and easy money in large quantities.”

 

Did you want to leave? How hard was it for you to leave? 

“I had tried to escape after the first day of realizing what was happening. I was under the impression I was going on a weekend girls’ trip. Later, I found out her boyfriend would be driving. Once we got into the hotel, I was told to answer my phone if it rang. I had no idea what was being said to me when I answered, and when the girl coached me on answers, I left the room, went to the office and called a cab. Seconds later, I was dragged back into the room and strangled until I passed out. When I regained consciousness, we were out of state. I did not want a boyfriend and did not fall for the psychological manipulation most pimps use as tactics to keep their victims so it was not difficult to leave mentally or emotionally – just physically.

When I was arrested for prostitution, I was asked if I was being forced. I told them I was. When they asked for a name, I asked how long my trafficker would be incarcerated. They said five years max for trafficking across state lines. I couldn’t take the risk of two and half years on good behavior, so I denied participating with law enforcement.”

 

Were you aware when you were being trafficked that you were being exploited?

“Since day one.”

 

What was an average day like when you were being trafficked?

“I was not allowed to post ads so I could not go ‘renegade’ (a sex worker working for themself). I was expected to cook for everyone if we had a kitchen. I sat by my phone, waited for calls, set up the dates and collected the money. On the dates, I was allowed to make my own rules outside of the basic guidelines provided by my trafficker. I was required to use protection. My trafficker would sit outside waiting for me and would collect the money the second I got into the car. Sometimes I would make extra ‘tips’ but would give everything I received to my trafficker. He would go through my things every night to make sure I was not hiding money. Once we were renting a house, I was required to cook and clean every day. Prior to that, we moved every two to five days. I was not allowed to talk to anyone until my trafficker said it was alright. I was not allowed to look anyone in the eye unless they were a prospective client. Marijuana and cocaine were regularly present. Each time I was offered, I would participate to disassociate from my current situation. I was arrested for prostitution and was fortunate enough to be allowed to complete my probation while with my trafficker.”

 

Have you been able to fully leave the life? 

“Yes but I still fear being recaptured by my trafficker. The night terrors are less severe and less frequent.”

 

How long did it take, once you were away from the trafficker, to feel like your life was back on track?

 “Three years. The first three months, I slept. The first year I was too scared to drive myself anywhere.”

 

How can residents help stop sex trafficking from happening to others?

“Notify law enforcement and give detailed descriptions. Notify the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888. Unfortunately, until it is guaranteed that traffickers will be incarcerated for 50 to life, it will be hard for a victim to feel safe prosecuting their trafficker.”

 

How can youth and young adults today avoid becoming a sex-trafficking victim?

”When we eradicate domestic violence, child abuse and sexual assault, we will be able to see an end to human trafficking. The day we begin to teach children about the positives of sexual intercourse, consent, healthy relationships, body autonomy, boundaries, respect for others and continue reinforcing these concepts throughout teenage years and young adulthood, we will begin seeing a change. Until then, build up your children, build up each other, be kind, be loving and talk to your children about the topics listed above when they being to ask questions. Be careful while on the internet and do not trust people (any gender) who show too much interest in you and are too good to be true without divulging enough about themselves that you can verify.”

 

Anything else you want to share with readers?

“Love others, love yourself and teach others to do the same. When we are filled with a pure, unconditional love for ourselves, we are able to share it with others without relying on them. These crimes stem from fear, pain, hate, abuse, feelings of unworthiness, not being understood and not having a loving, caring support system. Abusers are more than likely to have been abused and/or neglected themselves, my trafficker included.”

 

 

 Second survivor’s answers

Looking back, did any previous life events or other factors contribute to you being trafficked?

“Well my mother passed when I was a young girl, lack of parental guidance, attacked kidnapped, raped and abused by a former family friend who forced me into prostitution as a minor.”

 

What tactics did your trafficker use to keep you from leaving?

“• threats against family and friends

• beatings

• destruction of property

• financial abuse

• guilt 

• always my fault 

• gifts

• love 

• companionship 

• isolation 

• constant contact. A call when I leave, when I arrive, when I’m there and when I leave and when I get home. If I forgot, it was more beatings.”

 

 

What aspects of the life are most appealing and/or glamorized to youth? What pulls them in?

“Fancy cars, nice clothes, purses, phones, nice dinners, things most can’t afford on their own.”

 

Did you want to leave? How hard was it for you to leave? 

“I always wanted to leave. I left many times but every time I was too weak emotionally to survive and when he came back around and ‘would fix’ his attitude, I believed him. It was very hard. I had lost all trust from my family. No one believed I would do better. I had no job, no money of my own, no place to live. But at a certain point when the abuse was so bad and I feared for my life and I almost died, I knew no matter what, I was better off outside of his grasp.”

 

Were you aware when you were being trafficked that you were being exploited?

“Yes, it was my life. It was everything I had. And if I did well, I escaped beatings.”

 

What was an average day like when you were being trafficked?

“I would be sent out of town for weeks at a time. It was pack, get up, drive to L.A. or Arizona or wherever, get a hotel room, post an ad, wait for clients and work from 6 a.m. to 2 a.m. every day for two weeks. I would have to tell my trafficker everything every minute of every day. I had to deposit money every day into his account and he knew how much I made every time. I would come home exhausted and have to work the same way at home. But it was considered rest since I was at home.”

 

Have you been able to fully leave the life? 

“Absolutely. I received amazing support from Stand Up Placer and have never thought about returning. I have completely made a 180 and I’m my old self again but with more strength than I could have ever imagined. They have really given me my life back!”

 

How long did it take, once you were away from the trafficker, to feel like your life was back on track?

“Probably about a year. I felt relief immediately but I was so afraid of him and his abuse I was more worried about dying so getting away from him was the best feeling and it got better day by day!” 

 

How can residents help stop sex trafficking from happening to others?

“Education. Know what to look for. It starts with addressing the youth’s issues. If they are sad, help them. Don’t just assume it will get better because the moment a trafficker comes in and senses a sadness in a youth, they will tell them everything they need to hear and get them to leave. In my experience, that’s what happened to me. I had been through so much and lacked the support to heal that when the men who abused me saw that, they fed off of it and made me feel like I could conquer the world with them.”

 

How can youth and young adults today avoid becoming a sex-trafficking victim?

“Get help to gain self awareness and confidence. I know counseling sounds taboo but having a support system outside of family is huge. They are always there for you, never judging, just helping.

Know the signs of trafficking and domestic violence. Be aware of who you’re talking to, especially online. That’s the easiest platform to get children and women because they can see what a ‘glamorous life’ they could have. If you don’t know someone, don’t talk to them. Be weary of people. And most of all, trust your gut! Seriously, if it feels weird, don’t do it.”

 

Anything else you want to share with readers?

“These people feed off of women and children’s insecurities. They are sick in the head. Please parents, listen to your children. The worst thing you can do is to act like things don’t exist. When I was raped and kidnapped, my family swept it under the rug. Friends of his and mine acted like it never happened. Talk to them, and if they don’t want to talk to you about things, get a third party. Kids are going to act out; it’s natural but be proactive in their lives. Let them fail, but when they do, talk to them so they don’t internalize it and ignore it. It all starts when we are children. Something lacked and these traffickers know that and fill that hole!”