While I sit at home contemplating what my plans for Valentine's Day will be, my mind flashes back to what I like to call my lost years, when I didn't have the choice to even think about celebrating Valentine's Day. I couldn't even imagine taking myself out to dinner or meeting up with friends.
The only thought in my mind during the lost years were how many men were going to rape me that night. Some might want to argue with me and say that I am using the wrong word. They would suggest I use the words "how many men were going to purchase sex from me." They feel that if a man or woman is paying for sex then it is not rape because it is two consenting adults. That is the argument that a John (aka a rapist) or a sex worker would use.
But what do you think the 13-year-old girl whose pimp sells her every day would say? I say 13-year-old because the average age of entry into prostitution is between 12 to 14 years of age. At that age a girl is supposed to be getting a card from a boy in her class or preparing to go to her first school dance hoping her crush will look at her. But for a girl who is being trafficked she is doing her hair, putting on shoes and make-up. Then her pimp will take pictures in seductive poses to be placed on websites so that the buyers can view the goods before they purchase them.
When I was 16, I dreamed of going to lunch with a boy, then going to the movies with him. My hope was to have a normal day with a guy who cares about me. I had never had a real Valentine's Day because I never understood until recently what the traditional day meant. This year, the organization I work for, FAIR Girls, is having a Valentine's Day party in celebration of girls avoiding and escaping trafficking. On this day of love, our girls will celebrate the fact that we have found love within ourselves and for each other. At times like this I am proud to work at FAIR Girls. Seeing the smile on all of our girls' faces is the best gift for a holiday that I can ever receive.
For a victim of trafficking, Valentine's Day is just another day of being beaten, raped and sold to the highest bidder. My hope is that at least one young victim will read this and realize that she is worthy of love and support from groups like FAIR Girls. I also hope that people who work in hotels will keep their eyes out for girls who need help. If you encounter a victim, please call the human trafficking hotline: 1-888-373-7888.