Traffickers specifically target school-age boys and girls not only because children are preferred by the buyers but because children are deemed easier to manipulate and control. I know this because I was once one of those kids, lured away from home at age 14.
In the summer of 1992, just after I graduated eighth grade middle school, I ran away with a man I had met at the mall. I was lonely and angry, and this man reached out to me. This stranger, who gained my trust over several phone conversations, turned out to be a manipulative and intimidating pimp. He took me to Atlantic City, New Jersey, and he forced me to prostitute. By the time police spotted me on the street, I had been trafficked over half a dozen times.
Besides immediate family members, the only people to visit me in the hospital were my middle school science teacher, Mr. Steele, and two guidance counselors, Ms. Jackie Somma and Ms. Carol Turano. They drove over an hour to see me. Mr. Steele brought science textbooks because I loved biology. Ms. Somma and Ms. Turano sat close together on a couch and encouraged me the best way they could. I don’t remember anything they said. I just remember them being there for me.
These teachers wanted to help me; they just didn’t know how. Within days of my rescue, I attempted suicide.
Earlier this year, I testified in Richmond, Virginia, before the Senate Education Committee in support of SB 259 which had been introduced by Senator Adam Ebbin. This legislation, which passed unanimously and is being signed by Governor Bob McDonnell today, will require the Board of Education and the Department of Social Services to provide awareness and training materials for local school divisions on human trafficking, including strategies for the prevention of trafficking children.
As a survivor and advocate for child trafficking victims, I encourage other legislators and states across the country to follow Virginia’s lead.
- The Anti-trafficking Movement Needs Survivor Voices: Why Are We Ignored? (secretlifeofamanhattancallgirl.wordpress.com)
- “Trafficked: Slavery in America” Netflix Film Review (thesummitaht.wordpress.com)
- Local women working to expose, eradicate human trafficking (komonews.com)
- Stopping Human Trafficking (hopeforslaves.com)