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Sex-trafficking victim speaks out

Inside look at the sex-trade world
By: Sara Seyydin Journal Staff Writer
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Editor’s Note: This is the second in a two-part series looking at how sex trafficking hits closer to home. Less than a month ago, Jane Doe (name changed to protect identity), 19, relocated to a women’s shelter in the Auburn-area after escaping from the sex-trade in a major city. Peggy Fava, Lake of the Pines resident and executive director of Bridge-Network put the Journal in touch with her. Jane sat down with the Journal last week to share her story. No matter how much her memories of being a victim of sex-trafficking may fade over the years, Jane Doe said there is one feeling she will never be able to forget. “No matter how much I forget I will always remember this one feeling. Lying on the floor of the storage unit, shaking because I was so cold, drugged out of my mind and puking up blood and these men would just continue to do whatever they wanted to do to me,” Jane said. “These men didn’t care I was puking up blood. It was like having your innocence taken over and over again.” For Jane, that feeling became all too familiar over the three and a half years she was bought and sold for sex by her pimp, and even goes back to her early childhood. Jane’s mother was a prostitute and passed her around to various boyfriends, who molested her from the time she was 4 years old. As a young teenager, she had a boyfriend who was 32 and believed that was the norm. He was in a band and wanted her to make money for him by selling her body to other men for sex. Because she was a minor, she ended up in a group home after she was caught. One of the men in charge at the group home tried to force her to have sex with him. At that point, she decided to make a run for it. Word had gotten out to a man who targeted at-risk youth that Jane was going to run, probably from the man in the group home, who may have sold Jane. Her new pimp waited for her and told her he wanted to have her babies and had a bus ticket for her to go anywhere in the United States. Subhead: Trafficked across state lines At 15, Jane ended up in California, along with several other girls he had picked up. They traveled all around California and Nevada, though Jane said she never walked a street corner. People wanting to pay for sex, or “Johns” would call an untraceable cell phone. She was often held in storage units and given a small cut of the money, which she had to buy clothes with, or risk being beaten or killed. The managers or employees of storage companies would often be paid off to keep quiet. The pimps would also use the girls as drug mules. Jane said all of the drugs were kept on the women because legally police couldn’t search their private parts. “The only way I could get out of it was to tell him I was going to kill myself, but I really didn’t want to die,” Jane said. “He would lock us up in storage units and the men would come in and do whatever.” Finally, at 17, Jane was arrested for prostitution in Tijuana. Her home state on the East Coast didn’t want to pay to have her extradited, so she was put into a program in California. They helped her graduate high school and even start college. She took a full-load of AP classes and went to bible college in Alaska for a year. After that time, she admitted that she slipped up one time and went back to her pimp because it was all she really knew. Some of the people who were supposed to support her along the way tried to victimize her further. “I have had pastors, counselors and psychiatrists that have seen my file and said, ‘I’m not going to ask you to do anything you haven’t done before.’” Subhead: Breaking the cycle One day this year, Jane decided she had had enough. She stood up to her pimp and told him she was leaving. She was lucky enough to get away alive. With nowhere to go, Jane began living on skid row. She went from one shelter to another, but with so many homeless people, most of the shelters were at maximum capacity. A little over three weeks ago, a persistent and caring case worker in Southern California was able to arrange for someone from California Against Slavery to take her to a women’s shelter in Northern California, where she could begin to rebuild her life. She hopes along with stricter penalties for pimps and Johns, that laws will be changed so that the women involved in the sex-trade will not have to testify in front of their attackers. She said because of that law, she wouldn’t be willing to testify against her pimp and bring him to justice because she knows that his cohorts would just go after her. If she can find any redemption for the pain she has gone through, Jane said she hopes people will listen to her story and be moved to help other victims of sex-trafficking. “It’s not like we just were like, ‘oh look a prostitute. That’s what I want to be when I grow up.’ There were prostitutes in the bible and Jesus accepted them,” Jane said. “He said to his disciples, ‘She should be giving you the lessons.’” Subhead: Moving forward One day, she hopes to possibly have her own transitional facility for women who have been in the sex trade. She said she would target the demographic of women who may have been out of it a little longer, but still need help getting back on their feet. “The next 10 years I hope this so-called industry would be something we don’t hear of anymore. Then I’ll have place of my own with up to 150 beds,” Jane said. Jane has also been accepted to a college in Illinois, but has deferred her enrollment until next year. In the meantime, she wants to work on herself to make sure she is healthy emotionally. She said she has decided on thing for sure: her mindset. “I might get depressed. I might get sad. It’s something you can let eat you away or move forward. I’m going to change my mind and move forward,” Jane said. “Everyone has been traumatized, maybe not the way I have. It’s just how you deal it.” Her hope is that people will stop looking at the girls involved as criminals. “Don’t look at these girls as criminals. They are victims,” Jane said. “To people out there, there is always hope and freedom.” Reach Sara Seyydin at saras@goldcountrymedia.com.