The air is crisp outside. It feels like the coldest winter that I've ever experienced. Some people seem to really enjoy this time of year; however, I can't help but dislike it. To some, it is called, 'the most wonderful time of the year', but to me, it seems like any other month of the year, just much colder. Please don't get me wrong. I want it to be happy, joyful, & filled with wonder, but I just don't know how. You see, nothing is great about living on the streets.
I've made some mistakes in my life. I have chosen selfishly and strayed from what others call "normalcy". One bad step after another took me down a path of destruction. I was kicked out of one foster home after another. I grew up wanting to be loved, you know like the kind of love you see on TV for at the time, I knew nothing else. But instead, the only 'love' I found was that of my caretaker's husband, who beat me and raped me until I was 12.
Scared and alone, I ran. I ran as far as my little legs could take me. With the wind in my hair, I felt freedom like never before. I was like a bird that for the first time spread out my wings and soar.
After a year, I ended up here in Atlanta, a city where anything is possible. Right away, I was approached by a couple of well-dressed, young men. It seemed easy to find 'friends' on the streets. I was offered a job and shown pictures of young ladies partying and having a great time on a yacht. They told me I was beautiful and shared fabulous stories of all the great things I would do and wonderful people that I would meet.
Blushing, I couldn't seem to hide my feelings. I believed them. I mean, they were nicely clothed and didn't smell like alcohol, so surely they were trustworthy.
"Are you hungry? Let's get something to eat and we'll introduce you to our boss. I'm sure he's going to hire you right away. He's been searching for fresh new girls for the business."
"Ok," I naively said, "I am kind of hungry." I shamefully entered the car and was handed a drink.
I remember nothing more of that night expect that it forever changed my life. I was an easy target. That had me at "you're beautiful".
Night after night, I was drugged, beaten into submission, and scared into doing things that are too shameful to mention.
They had a tight reign over me. I was one of their "top" sellers. Could this be considered as being a successful, business woman at age 13? You'd probably say no, but in this line of work, it seems that I was 'sought after'.
It disgusted me to pretend to enjoy what I was having to do, but it seemed as though there was no way out. Is there anyone out there who can make this stop?
People saw me on the streets and I took notice of their heads turning away. I often wondered why they turned away. Why would they not help me?
I spent another 397 days in this filthy business. A business that brings in billions of billions of dollars and has no fear of client shortages. Young boys are able to view pictures and videos online at such a young age. And by the time they are older, they deeply crave fantasies that only money can provide. So, they become partakers in the 'business'. Please don't get me wrong, it's not only men but women as well.
I spent every sober moment dreaming of an escape. I grew faint of waiting for my knight in shining armor to rescue me. It seemed as though I'm the only one who cares for me.
When my moment came, I took advantage of it. The 'client' went into the bathroom to shower and 'politely' gave me the remote. He said he'd just be a minute.
I nodded and grabbed for the remote. I raised the volume to the TV and quickly put on my clothes. It was dark outside and I slipped out as quickly as I could.
Scared and confused, I ran. I had felt this feeling before. But this time, I promised myself that no one will ever mistreat me again.
I spent days sleeping on the streets. I avoided making eye contact, but always kept an eye behind me. I feared my 'boss' would find me.
Winter came early this year, and I have found myself in a women's shelter ran by some church people. They try to be nice, but I didn't trust them. It seems that everyone wants to promote me as some kind of 'project'.
I'm not a 'project'. I'm a 16 year old, young lady.
These ladies tell me that they know a man who can help me. His name is Jesus. But, I don't need a man. I have had plenty who were 'good' to me. I just want a place to stay during these cold, winter months and am grateful that they provide some food.
These ladies are crazy annoying. They just don't give up. I don't need your 'Jesus' or anything like that. I have myself and at this point, I feel the need to leave this joint. I can't stand their condescending looks or fake smiles. Don't reach out to shake my hand. Do I look like I want your hug? No, just don't touch me.
I can't believe that I've been here for a couple of weeks now. I'm thinking of heading out in a few days. I don't like all these people coming in and out doing their 'feel good projects' and then leaving to never be seen again.
Although, there's this older lady, Rachel, who seems to be sincere. I am starting to maybe like her. Do I trust her? I don't want to. But she seems to care about me in a way that is different than anything else that I've ever known. She listens to me. She doesn't preach at me or talk at me. She doesn't treat me as if I can't do anything myself like those that come in wanting to 'serve' for their 'good card' to get punched. She shares her life with me and I feel a friend in her.
Tonight, she prayed with me. I was hesitant at first, so I prayed sat quietly with my eyes opened. I watched her while she held my hand and her tears warmed my heart. She strangely prayed, "Jesus, I come to you on behalf of my friend, Mary. She is weary, scarred, and alone. I am carrying her to you because I know that only you can heal her wounded heart and broken body. You can restore peace to her soul. Only you can give hope to the hopeless. Jesus, her pains should not have happened to her and I know that you cry with us. This world is so broken and this madness of child-trafficking has to end. Help us, Lord. We cry out to you for healing. I cry out to you for wisdom. Give me your words to comfort, Mary, and to walk by her side. It is in your loving name that I pray, Amen."
I looked at her as she reached in to hug me. I didn't know what to think, but as she gently embraced me, my shoulders dropped and I felt a release of something in my back. It was a hug, a real hug. And you know what, she knows my name.
I put my head down and politely said, "Thank you. It's time for me to go to bed". And I left her side.
I can't sleep tonight. I keep thinking of Rachel and this man, Jesus. She really believes in him and kind of makes me want to believe in him, too. But tonight, the only thing that I'm sure of is that I can sleep with both eyes closed.
Tomorrow, I might just ask her a few questions about this Jesus guy.
*Although I wrote this fictional story, sex trafficking is disgustingly real. Please support organizations that are raising awareness and those providing a safehouse for sex trafficking victims. I have listed a few organizations below. There are more organizations out there, but these we know personally.
These videos inspired the post:
More organizations suggested by a dear friend: