“All I am asking is that you try walking a day in my heels! Then say what you want.” Darla*, a sex trafficking survivor
Part of the healing process for sexual abuse or trafficking victims is telling their story. This takes a lot of courage and strength, for it reopens deep wounds and leaves them raw and gaping. Reliving the horror of the life of being a paid sex object brings a myriad of emotions to the surface such as shame, anger, fear, depression and even desires for self-injury or suicide.
Forward movement through the pain and anguish happens best in an environment of unconditional love with appropriate boundaries, when the survivors know that they are safe. At shelters such as StreetLightUSASM, residents are given a variety of media for expressing their feelings and experiences such as art, journaling and discussing books about other survivors. Following are the words of one young lady.
It’s so easy to judge one another, but do we ever take the time to ask? I know at one point in my life, I didn’t.
I also know that I didn’t wake up one morning wanting to be a prostitute. I felt that I was left alone in a city that was unknown. Try sleeping at a bus stop, or walking around in a trench coat with no clothes underneath, not because that was what I wanted, but because I had no other clothes to put on.
I came to meet my father in an unknown state, by myself, and not knowing anybody or anything. But all I got in return was [to be] left on a street. I did what I thought I had to do, so I didn’t have to go another three days with out any food, so I didn’t have to sleep out side again.
When you go out on a date and, because he gave you a nice dinner, [do] you feel that it is right to sleep with him? Well, that is prostitution. Or, [are you] feeling the need to sleep with your boyfriend because he bought you something nice? That is prostitution.
If we take a look at our lives, many young women are prostituting for many different reasons and they might not even know that they are doing it. So what makes any of you different from me? The only thing different is I had to do it to have a roof over my head and clothes on my back.
Everyone has so much spare time to judge, but is timeless when it comes to asking how I feel or felt after opening myself up to a stranger. Well, let me tell you I FELT degraded, dirty, no longer a human being. I felt more alone, confused, and madder at myself then ever. Nobody takes the time to hear this, but everybody makes time to call people names.
Have you ever thought about what leads people to suicide? Look, I made a mistake. I have [done] and seen things that I thought that I would have never had to. I won’t apologize to anybody besides my family because I know that I put them through just as much hell as I have been through, but its funny how they are still welcoming with open arms. The people that are in no way affected by my actions are the ones judging. All I am asking is that you try walking a day in my heels! Then say what you want.
I am now helping myself get back on the right track, and I CAN NOT take any more criticism! So if you have anything negative to say about me, and [are] not willing to try and help me, then please leave me alone. Instead of putting me down (I am already too low to go any lower), please say a quick prayer and pray that my situation doesn’t happen to your daughter or sister one day.
Thank you to who ever still loves me and to the people that think of me as a young women with potential. I am coming home soon, just know that everybody does something for a reason. Try taking a little time to find out what that reason is before you lead somebody to potential death.
Editor’s note: Darla is one of the teen survivors at StreetLightUSASM. In the short time she has been a resident, she has quickly seen through the lies and manipulations of the pimp who controlled her. She is working hard on her own life and issues and earnestly desires healing and wholeness.
*Name changed for privacy
Posted on behalf o f StreetlightUSASM
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