Today, we share with you the second story in our series of survivor stories, in honor of Human Trafficking Awareness Month. We are breaking up these stories into what life was like before, during, and after the life. Laurie is brave and has shared details that may be incredibly difficult for some readers, so we want to add an extra level of warning for anyone who may be reading. These are Laurie’s words, as written by Laurie, and serve the purpose of showing you the cost on another human’s life, when people treat people as products to abuse and exploit.
Trigger warning: many events and descriptions in the following story are graphic and may be triggering for some readers.
This second story belongs to Laurie.
My name is Laurie. I would like to tell you a little bit about my story how I became a victim of human trafficking. I am a product of rape, so I never knew my father. My mother was there for me up until the age of five, when I told her that my second oldest brother had been molesting me since the age of three. She called the police and some people came and took my brother away. After this, my mom went into a deep depression which left my oldest brother to care for me. Then, when I was nine, he went off to college, leaving me feeling abandoned and all alone to fend for myself. Can you picture a nine year old in that situation? That’s what it was like for me.
My best friend’s sister was in the life. She made it seem normal, and needing a way to survive, I went along with this. I remember that first time being told, “just relax, it won’t hurt much.” While three men took turns raping me, the whole time I laid there, I kept thinking, “how could they be ok with paying to rape this little ten year old girl!?” Can you imagine how I felt? It was after this traumatic experience that I began using cocaine to deal with the flashbacks from the rape.
A few months later, I met my trafficker and I thought the relationship was great and that he would help me. I got pregnant and had a daughter at twelve years old. This cycle of abuse and addiction continued for some time. Then, at fourteen, I remember feeling embarrassed being on baby number three and only fourteen years old, having to lie to the doctors and nurses, telling them that my trafficker was my uncle because he was so much older than me. I had also begun using heroin to escape from all my pain. I remember getting smacked for looking at a woman who walked by. This cycle of abuse and addiction continued for years. I remember getting stopped by the police and they found drugs in the car. I remember being told that if I loved him, that I would take the charges. I thought that he loved me, so when the police asked me who the drugs belonged to, I said they were mine. I was given ten years probation and served four months in jail.
A while later, I went to try to live with my mom, who was doing better. However, this didn’t last long. I left after my own blood cousin raped me. When I found out two months later that I was pregnant by my cousin, I went back to my trafficker, because it was the place I felt like I was loved. Instead of a sweet sixteen party, I got a baby. Believing and being told this was the only way I am going to make money to take care of my kids, I went back to the life. I became pregnant again and moved away from my trafficker because he had started to change his life. He was saying, “stop selling your soul,” and I couldn’t stop, because the money fueled my addictions and the drugs covered my pain. So I made the decision to let my children go with him to North Carolina, knowing that they could have a better life and end up with a family and support, something that was missing in my life.
This happened when I was seventeen years old. I went back to what I knew. After this, I met another trafficker who made me think he was different. At first, things were good, he took me to lots of different states, I thought this was just for fun but it wasn't, I ended up working. It was during this time that I had made several suicide attempts. I thought that being dead was the only way to get away from the pain that I felt.
When I was 21, I met someone new, thinking, “he is the one.” I had another baby, which only made things way worse, because now I had to provide for him, me, and a daughter. After two years of getting beat, shot at, and choked in front of my daughter, I decided that I wanted more for her, so I went to treatment. I stayed for three weeks and then left to move in with another man, thinking that this time was going to be different. I became pregnant yet again. This time, I stopped using while I was pregnant, but as soon as I had my son, I was off to the races again. I knew that this wasn't the life I wanted for my children so I thought back to that program that a girl told me about when I was fourteen, Breaking Free.
I ended up going to a Christian Recovery Center with two of my children, and was doing well, but I just couldn’t get the images of all the fat, sloppy, rotten, salami-smelling bodies on top of me out of my mind. Or the image of the three old, gray-haired men taking turns slapping hands to have a piece of this little girl. While I was there, my children were taken from me, due to being in the life, which led me to want to commit suicide, but I continued to be in the life. My bottom came when my newborn son was taken from me, I had high hopes of getting to raise him, so I decided to come back to Breaking Free and work the program.
I used to feel like a victim, that this was all my life was meant for, that this was all I would ever be capable of doing.
Now I have been fully involved in the Breaking Free program for about seventeen months, and I feel much different. I have my own apartment in Breaking Free housing. I have interned as the receptionist at Breaking free. I am learning to love myself now.
Now I don’t feel like a victim but more like there is hope for me.
Now I feel like my life has purpose.
Now I feel like now the sky's the limit of what I can do in my life.
How you can help
Laurie has survived experiences that most people cannot imagine. She was given little opportunity and any opportunity she was given, she had to fight hard for. Breaking Free has provided shelter, new chances, a network of support, and a place to feel whole in a world that just keeps trying to take and tear apart. We are inspired by Laurie and her persistence.
If you or someone you know needs help, contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline to find assistance close to you.
Get involved in the passage of SESTA (Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act) by contacting your legislators and encouraging others to do the same.
Donate to Breaking Free so they can provide services to hundreds of women every year.Image Credit: A special thank you to Brandon Werth for capturing the images for this survivor series.