1. We chose this life.
No little girl comes to career day in elementary school and announces to her teacher and classmates that she wants to grow up to be a prostituted woman – to be raped, beaten, robbed, and exploited. No little girl looks forward to the day she will be touched by men old enough to be her father. Rather, a series of events in our life removed all other options until prostitution was the lesser of two evils, or the only option left. Also understand that life is not a series of individual events, but rather a cyclical flow, meaning that until you see the entire picture, you won’t understand the decisions we had to make.
2. We are just waiting to be “rescued”.
If we’ve been prostituted for a long time, chances are we don’t identify as a “trafficking victim”, or a victim at all – in fact, we’ve started to identify with our abusers (Stockholm syndrome). Finding our freedom has to be on our terms, and it is not a singular event – it is a process that can take a minimum of 3 years to deprogram and re-integrate into society.
3. We are lazy.
Just because we haven’t worked a “9-to-5” job doesn’t mean we are lazy – in fact most of us have be made to work 12-18 hour days for years, with no vacations or down time. On top of that, complete indoctrination into “The Game” means that we have undergone repeated trauma and intense brainwashing, both of which physically alter the brain. So when we say we want to leave our abuser and the lifestyle, but you don’t see action (or the action YOU want to see!), please understand that these changes can manifest as anxiety and/or depression, obsessive thoughts, and protective behaviors that appear as aggressiveness or pride. Our culture believes strongly in self-improvement, and so seeing us acting in these ways is misinterpreted as “just not wanting to try”. Oftentimes we appear to be entrenched in our belief system, and we are – but it is rooted in our biological brain composition.
4. We are uneducated.
Sure, a lack of education and opportunities might have increased our vulnerabilities. But a recent study conducted by the Justice Department and the Urban Institute shows that a lack of basic education is not something that is lacking. And book smarts aside, we are incredibly “street smart”, observant and driven. We are oftentimes incredible entrepreneurs who have unfortunately been mislead, and giving us the opportunity to show you how intelligent we are restores our faith in ourselves.
5. We are permanently damaged goods.
This is an outright lie! As survivors, we are wonderful mothers, supportive partners, and successful professionals. We matter, and we do not deserve to be ignored or discriminated against by our family, friends, employers, health care professionals or within the justice system. Trauma-informed resources can help us find freedom from our traffickers, and our vulnerable circumstances that led us to be victimized to begin with. With the right guidance, therapy, and support network, we are able to go on to do amazing things.
6. With enough jail and consequences, we can fix our problem.
There’s a big difference between sending us to prison where we are not able to be sold, and we have limited contact with our trafficker, and finding lasting solutions to and healing from our vulnerabilities. It’s easy to “stay clean” while being locked up, but if we aren’t given the tools and resources we need, we will find ourselves right back in the places and relationships that got us in trouble to begin with. Unlike other illegal activities, prostitution is often our only option to put a roof over our heads and food on our table for our families, so we often have high rates of recidivism when we are not accurately identified and helped.
7. We just don’t have access to government assistance.
Food, healthcare, housing, child care, and transportation are all top priorities when we first find our freedom – but long-term government dependence is NOT a solution to the problem. In fact, many of us were on assistance either before or during our time of being exploited, and if anything, it only added to our vulnerabilities. On top of that, being told that our best option is depending on “handouts” reinforces the belief that we are damaged goods who will never amount to anything. We want to work hard, and we need to be empowered and encouraged to pursue our dreams and accomplish our goals. We need to know that we are capable of doing these things on our own. And we need YOU to walk alongside us as we find our freedom, heal from our traumas, and build a bright future.
8. We must have done something to be where we are.
A lot of times, you are looking for a reason that will help you understand how we ended up being trafficked, or maybe to reassure yourself that you or your children are not going to end up being trafficked. Being sexually abused as a child did cause us to be trafficked. Working in a gentleman’s club did not cause us to be trafficked. Growing up in a divorced home did not cause us to be trafficked. Nothing we did “made” us be trafficked, nor does it excuse the abuser! Stop the victim-blaming. It is not our fault.