I was inspired to write about sex trafficking survivors after interviewing women for articles, and after researching “The Ugly Truth” campaign, which is run by the San Diego District Attorney’s Office to spread awareness of sex trafficking in San Diego. I found the women I’ve spoken with for this project by contacting anti-trafficking resources, such as Generate Hope and Survivors for Solutions, and the people there helped set me up with interviews.
Through my interviews I’ve learned that anyone can be a victim of sex trafficking, regardless of age, race, or social status, which is what I hope everyone who reads this takes away.
I write this collection as a tribute to the women who have survived sexual exploitation. To the women who are still trapped, but want to escape. To the children we see every day, but never suspect are being abused. And to the people everywhere who want to do something to stop it.
At the heart of the sex industry is a lesson on class division: those who can afford to pay for sexual encounters, and those who feel they cannot afford to turn down the money.
To the people who think being in the sex industry should be a right, I ask who really benefits? The men, women and children who are often taught at an early age that their bodies are merely a means of income to get what they want, or the abusers, “Johns,” and pimps who taught them that? It saddens me that much of the U.S. legislation to support the rights of “sex workers” is really a disguise that enables Johns to buy and pimps to sell. Just ask any of the survivors protesting organizations like Amnesty International, an organization that fights to support “sex workers.” Sex trafficking survivors are forced to vote on the issue alongside their previous pimps and Johns, all the while the pamphlets they created to voice their side are silently collected and tossed in the trash.
When the victims are constantly silenced, and only those with money allowed to speak, how can things change?
Thankfully in California there are new laws being pushed to prosecute sex buyers, but not the prostitutes, since law enforcement has realized many of the prostitutes only choose that profession after years of sexual exploitation. However, many other states are still prosecuting prostitutes and letting the Johns go with a slap on the wrist. If we really want to make change, we need to understand where these women are coming from, and help them feel loved again.
For those who want to escape, there is a way. Each woman I spoke with shared the miracle of her life freely, as you will soon read. My hope is that you will learn something that can lead you or someone you know out of his or her net of despair. At the least, I hope to change our judgements and misconceptions about prostitution, pornography, strippers and escorts. What we see is not even half the story, and there is a whole lot of hurt and abuse hidden behind the scenes.
I would like to say a very special thank you to Marjorie, Jamie and Susan for their willingness to open up to me and this project. A final word of thanks to Professor Claire Colquitt and my peers in San Diego State’s English Honors thesis class of 2017 for their encouragement, critiques, and suggestions.