“I think people forget that adults can be victims as well. A lot of states don’t recognize if you’re 18 and above that you’re a victim of trafficking. You’re just a prostitute. I could be 17 today and be a victim of trafficking, and tomorrow I’m 18 and still in the same situation.”
A sex trafficker can tell whether a person is vulnerable to victimization within 15 seconds of talking to someone, and unfortunately, that was who Jamie had the misfortune of encountering one night. She was sexually exploited for seven years before a warning from God changed her life. Below are the poems I wrote based on her experiences, followed by her story.
This Alabaster Jar (a prayer)
Nowhere to go,
I crawl to your side in submission
My earthen container, though broken, is yours
Accept this as I soak my unbound hair
To sweep the dusty road from your feet—
You treasured me though I tromped you through
Miry wilderness in my rebellion.
Allow me to anoint you with my tears and
All I have left to give.
Take your servant’s heart, Lord—
Renew my reason to live.
What’s Inside of Me
Those black and white sketches you draw with fingers pointed sharp as glass
May scratch the surface of my hardened skin, but they’ll never crack within
Little minds cannot comprehend the nature of a geode
They overlook how the loveliest jewel
Can come from a burst of weathering water
Though the outside is rough it hides being filled to the brim
With a shimmering lining heaven’s highest royalty aches to own
Every Day an Anniversary
My pulse speeds or slows
Running on an unknown cycle;
An alarm set to specific dates.
I may not remember what happened that day
But my body does.
There’s a long list of events tallied,
And though free, my body still rallies
Against the abuse now fused to my brain.
I may freeze to unseen torment;
My arms may bruise; my scalp may tingle;
My face may sting; my jaw may ache;
my spine may stiffen
I may never remember.
But my body does,
And every day is another reminder.
You think yours are better than mine?
Lord love you, don’t underestimate
How high these feet can climb, or how far
they can go in these life tempered sandals.
I’ve been through the longest stretch of lonely desert,
True, the crippling heat of adversity nearly wore my sole thin—
And I’ve been rubbed raw with the harshest conditions,
But every day is new, and these shoes
Saw me through each moonlit step to next desert sunrise.
Those dainty heels may not fit my calloused foot
But I will always outpace you.
Until you live a day in these shoes, sheathe that barbed tongue.
Dear Sister of the Street,
You’ll probably never read this
But I just want you to know
I’ve been where you are;
I’ve sown what you’ve sowed
I know you’ve been beaten
And kicked and spit on
And told that you’re nothing
But a place to rest a foot on
Life gets so hard
And you just try to exist
Without thinking or moving
Or trying to resist
So you numb out the pain
And you tamp down the feeling
Since you hurt from your feet
Straight up to the ceiling.
The room’s not enough to fill all
Of your sorrow, but I just want you to know
If you want to chat, then come, feel free
Because you are loved, and valued by me
And no, I don’t want a thing in return
I just want you to see you live, and to learn
That you’re full of passion and wisdom and worth–
Yes, there’s more to you than what’s under that skirt
Don’t let them drown you in a sea full of lies
I’m here if you want
And I have a life line
So even if you think that this path is your choice
And you take the abuse because someone’s taken your voice
I know that you have a purpose in life
And your calling is greater than you could ever devise
Trust me, I’ve been there
And I’ve come so far–
So, you do have a choice to be where you are
And just a reminder: I’ll always be free
If you ever want to chat, just come talk to me.
Jamie was an adult when she entered the sex industry, and she was sex trafficked for seven years before she escaped. She said she had been given so many chances to escape the life of prostitution, but always lost faith and returned. With the birth of her son, she re-dedicated her life to Christ, but soon afterward began feeling anxious and depressed because she couldn’t provide for him the way she wanted to.
In a moment of despair, she called an old client. However, just as she was about get out of her car to ring his doorbell, she heard a voice tell her, “If you do this you will die.”
She knew it was God telling her she would not get another chance, and as she broke down crying, that was when she made the decision to be done with the sex industry for good.
Her moment of conviction was what inspired “This Alabaster Jar.” It refers to the repentant prostitute who anointed Jesus’ feet with her tears and an expensive oil that would have been used to perfume her body before meeting with a special client, or to anoint her body for burial; it was usually worth a year’s wages, and was contained in an alabaster jar. The jar in itself would have been very expensive, but had to be broken to access the oil inside. I saw Jamie, broken and vulnerable as she surrendered herself to Jesus.
The poem’s name also stems from The Alabaster Jar Project, which is a housing project that allows sex trafficking victims a safe place to recover. Both Marjorie and Jamie mentioned The Alabaster Jar Project to me because they help with it in some capacity.
When I wrote “What’s Inside of Me,” I thought of how life had hardened Jamie, until God’s “water of life” trickled in and transformed her. She lights up when talking about her passion for helping people who have been sex trafficked, and preventing it from happening to others, so I used the geode as a comparison for her life being brilliantly re-created from inside-out.
All the stories from the women I’ve interviewed helped me see how tough their lives have been, but also how it helped shape them into who they are today: strong, dedicated, and persevering women. I specifically had Jamie in mind for “Shoes” because she helps women who have been sexually exploited by getting them clothes and professional items through a boutique she helps manage. “Shoes” also conveys the kind of attitude Jamie has had to develop to deal with the prejudice against her because of her past.
One of the things Jamie pointed out is that organizations for the sexually exploited that are not run by survivors actually tend to re-exploit the people they are trying to help.
“You don’t want to ask people who are not involved with that lifestyle for help because you’re scared you’ll be judged or you’re scared of them re-exploiting you.”
She said the media tends to do this the most because they are just looking to put a face to the “hot” topic, and don’t realize some of the questions ask can be very triggering. She said all people who have been sexually abused suffer from PTSD.
Jamie came from a broken childhood. Her mother suffered from alcoholism and gambling, and her father was not around very much because he worked 11-hour days. Her parents divorced when she was very young, and at around age five, her mother began dating a man in Oceanside, California.
She said her mother’s boyfriend molested her at least twice when she was around eight or nine, but she suffers from severe PTSD complex and does not remember much of her youth, or her time in the sex industry. She said it’s like huge blocks of memory are just missing; she cannot remember even a single birthday from when she was a child.
She assumes the molestation she suffered as a child was likely a catalyst for seeking male attention when she was older. At age 15 she became pregnant with her first child, which her father told her to abort because she was still in school. The father of the child, the boy she lost her virginity to, was emotionally abusive and degrading, and told everyone she had slept with the whole football team. At 16 she met the father of her first daughter, and she dropped out of school. At 19 she married him and became pregnant again. He joined the military and she sensed he was cheating on her on deployment.
It turned out she was right, but he was cheating on her with another man. At this point, Jamie said she was suffering from low self-esteem and insecurity, but tried to move on. She and her husband divorced and he left her without any way to pay for her children. In a fit of rebellion, she decided to go out, get drunk and hook up with someone—which she had never done before. That was the night she met her first trafficker.
For the next six years Jamie was a sex worker. She said after a little while she began to identify as a prostitute. She went from pimp to pimp, but always ended up with the original man who started her in the industry. When she tried to work the industry on her own, she said she always ended up getting raped or robbed, so she felt like she needed the protection.
The poem “Every Day an Anniversary” comes from Jamie’s experience with PTSD, and how she is unable to remember many of the things that happened to her, but her body alerts her. Both she and Marjorie have spoken of this, where their bodies seem to store memories of the trauma, and on certain days they will know something bad must have happened because of the way their body is aching or reacting.
Now that Jamie is out of the sex industry, her main focus is on prevention and intervention. With prevention, she said her aim is to work with the male population to help them not become sex buyers or traffickers. She said everyone is vulnerable, and she wants to understand what men and boys are struggling with to make them feel like selling women is their best option. Her question is, “At the end of the day, whether trafficker, buyer, or the girl being exploited, why did this option ever come into play?”
With intervention, she goes out to the high-volume prostitution areas to visit the girls there and to give them gifts, and resources for help. Jamie is now the founder of an anti-sex trafficking organization called Sisters of the Streets, which collects gently used items to the women in recovery.
One of the main ways Jamie tries to encourage women to leave the life of prostitution is by collecting high-quality purses and filling them with hygiene and feminine products. She and a group of women will then go out and find girls who are working the streets and give each girl a purse—if it’s safe.
Jamie said in each purse she writes a letter to the woman, relating how she was once in the same situation, and telling the woman if she ever wants to talk to her she can call or visit any time. This is what inspired the poem “Dear Sister of the Streets.”