I am originally from an impoverished Philadelphia neighborhood but I have lived in a rural northwestern Pennsylvania town since 2002. I first began writing in 2006 during a long, protracted and fruitless job search as a middle-aged woman trying to re-enter the workforce with my Bachelor’s degree in mathematics. Unfortunately, I would have needed a minimum of a Master’s degree and there was no funding available to me to pay for grad school—or law school—so that I could have had the opportunity to become a human rights lawyer like I had always wanted.I picked up a few freelance gigs writing and editing a few science articles for Holocaust author Edwin Black’s online news journal, The Cutting Edge News and began ghostwriting and editing bioethics articles that were published in medical journals, but the pay was not enough to live on by a long shot.
I began speaking out about the injustices of poverty due to classism and systemic discrimination (particularly against poor women in America, regardless of race) and the power dynamics and the price of privilege, which is difficult to write about despite having the lived experience of it as a sex trafficking survivor from the poverty class. Very few people are willing to acknowledge that their comforts, social status, and privileges were paid for by the social and economic deprivation suffered by others.
The disprivilege, isolation, total social exclusion and material deprivation endured by the poorest and most marginalized women—those from the underclass of the underclass whom society discarded and handed over to traffickers—paid for everybody else’s position, comforts, opportunities, and privileges.
Having hidden from the men who trafficked me for 27 1/2 years after escaping, only a tiny few people knew about my “past.” But many others guessed about it—it’s difficult to explain the unexplainable gaps of one’s life spanning from age 13 to age 17, especially when you know you will only be judged, labeled as “damaged”, and stigmatized and punished by everybody else for what others have done to you while the whole world knew the truth and yet remained silent.
Silence is consent.
I was initially very reticent to write about these issues; not because I doubted my own abilities and talent, but because I was very skeptical that it would have an impact—due in no small measure to my own life experience as a marginalized sex trafficking survivor from the American underclass whom no one cared about for as long as I can remember.
It is also an irrefutable fact that the system is rigged in favor of those who have privilege and against those at the very bottom without privilege no matter how talented, ambitious, or intelligent they are. Those who have privilege and power in any society are never willing to cede it or share it peacefully or graciously.
My fifth book which was just published on March 13 2013, Without Apology, tells the main points of my own story, but it is not another lurid piece of “human trafficking porn”—it addresses the underlying social and economic structures that create, perpetuate and maintain a prostitute class as a repository for discarding poor, unwanted ‘surplus’ women into and addresses the ways in which American society reinforces male supremacy with both sexual exploitation and reproductive exploitation as an economy of misogyny.
The world had not been a very kind place to me since I was orphaned and left destitute and homeless at 13. I escaped when I was 17 back in 1984. No one was interested in helping me rebuild my life throughout the entire time after I had exited sexual exploitation hell (at risk of either murder or arrest) while I had to hide from the high-ranking members of an outlaw motorcycle gang who trafficked me for 27 ½ years. Of course, changing your last name and being able to hide was much easier before the Internet and the tracking capabilities in cell phones. But it was extremely difficult, if not impossible, to rebuild one’s life nonetheless.
When someone shows you who they really are, believe them.
It has not gone unnoticed that the very same people who hated poor marginalized women like me for being “only whores” as recently as five years ago now suddenly claim to support making help available for trafficking victims (when they’re not slut-shaming other women for wanting access to birth control and safe legal abortion). Funny how they suddenly “care” when the US Dept. of Health & Human Services doles out tens of millions of dollars to these very same people who have started NGO’s and charities under former president Bush’s “faith-based initiatives” to “fight human trafficking.”
Ever since the human trafficking issue was turned into the newest “gold rush” for opportunists and “issue tourists” with privileges (who always despised poor marginalized women), all these people suddenly care—so long as their “caring” won’t cost them any money or raise poor unfortunate women’s status—leaving the privileged with fewer poor prostitutes to look down on and feel superior to. For the most part, they have done NOTHING but carve out cushy jobs for themselves and lined their own pockets at poor prostitution victims’ expense while offering the victims nothing but empty clichés and useless platitudes oozing with fairy dust thinking.
Nothing is more telling about how genuine people really are than their reactions when confronted with the fact that ending sex trafficking may actually cost them some of their privileges. I have found that for most, the anti-human trafficking movement is just another middle class feel-good activism party of walkathons, high-priced fundraising events, and pot-luck suppers for them to feel good about themselves. It’s never been about the poor disprivileged, marginalized trafficking survivors who have nothing.
The focus of leaders in the anti-trafficking movement has never been about helping the overwhelming majority of sex trafficking victims/survivors who are women struggling with the same deep poverty and deprivation of opportunities that pushed them into the sex trade to begin with who were trafficked and then escaped and lived to tell about it.
Just as they got off on having a prostitute class to hold in contempt, and just as men got off on buying sex from trafficked women and girls, most people in these social justice movements who say they care and want to help really don’t care—they make everything all about them and silence the voices of the majority of trafficking victims who are struggling in poverty. They get off on having us as poor, downtrodden charity cases whom they never wanted to give real opportunities to because they’re privilege-clingers who are only interested in power-overing and keeping poor trafficking victims down as perpetually needy charity cases that are expected to prostrate themselves in eternal gratitude for miserly, inadequate crumbs.
Many people in the anti-trafficking movement approached me offering paternalism cloaked deceptively in the habiliments of “help”, only to not actually provide any real substantive help at all. Instead, their “offers” are mostly something to make them feel good about “helping the poor trafficking victim”—it usually had nothing to do with really helping poor, marginalized women who escaped the sex trade to actually get a leg up and re-enter society.
Based on my own experience and everything I have observed and investigated, I firmly believe most people in the anti-trafficking movement are just using the victims and the issue of sex trafficking to secure their funding stream from the government to benefit themselves and pay for their junkets while poor survivors who desperately need money, job opportunities, and help to rebuild their (our) lives continue to suffer without basic human needs (like medical care to prevent disability and blindness from glaucoma). I have yet to see proof of anything to the contrary. And I refuse to shut up about this.
Polaris got $10 million from US Dept. of Health & Human Services, in addition to all the money they rake in through charity drives and fundraisers. Why did Polaris not provide real help for this trafficking survivor in need of glaucoma treatment and computer training and job placement? They got funding in the name of poor trafficking survivors. But I have yet to meet another American trafficking victim who actually got helped. I know that I never got any help from any of these charities to rebuild my life throughout the entire 28 (and counting) years after I escaped—help like medical and dental care, an income to live on with some basic human dignity, and the opportunity for completing my education through the grad school level or even just some computer programming and web development courses and direct job placement.
And I am not alone. My situation is the norm for poor trafficking victims in America. What is even more tragic is that most poor trafficking victims end up in far worse shape than I did—when I was trafficked and subsequently escaped 30 years ago, it was before herpes and the AIDS epidemic hit. I escaped without any STD’s—which is NOT a likely outcome for most trafficked women and girls today.
All I got slapped with was untreated PTSD and lifelong poverty, social and material deprivation, and total isolation due to the stigma against poor people, especially against poor women from the prostitute class—we are the underclass of the underclass.
[read more here at my Without Apology site...]