At any given time, you can ride down International Boulevard in Oakland, CA and find young women strolling back and forth waiting for a "date" to come along. I use the term "young women" loosely. In all actuality, the fact is that many of these girls are just that: girls. The average age of entry point into the sex industry is 12-14 years of age. I was 14 when I was sold. How is it that our society can continue to turn a blind eye to the fact that there are children being sold in our backyards? Is it because it isn't your child? Or is it because America has bought into the belief that these girls choose to be there? And if it is the latter, can someone please explain to me how someone who is by law not old enough to consent to sex, able to consent to an exchange of money for sex. The truth is that these girls could be any one of our children. Yes, statistically it is more probable that these would be foster children, children from a single parent home or children from a drug or alcohol addicted parent. But in all honesty, they are not the only ones that end up out there.
Many of you will say, "Why don't they just leave if they don't want to be there?" Personally, I was terrified to try to leave at first. I was afraid that I would be beaten, possibly to death. Then there was the shame. If I called my family to come and rescue me, I would have to let them know about all of the dirty details of what had been taking place. But in the end, I found an opportunity to run and I did just that. I called my mother and she came to my rescue. But what about the young people that don't have someone to call? What about the "throw away" kids?
For many years after that, I did everything in my power to bury the past; to bury all of those hurtful memories. And for a while, it worked. Then about a year and a half ago, I was sitting in church and Love Never Fails was at the pulpit talking about rescuing and rehabilitating young people from commercial sexual exploitation. And at that moment, it all came flooding back. The pain that I had managed to keep at bay for so very long resurfaced. And it was back with a vengeance. I began to cry uncontrollably. It was at that moment that I knew what I had been called to do.
I became involved with Love Never Fails; becoming a Mentor for Positive Change where I am currently mentoring an 18 year old survivor. I also began to do street outreach ministering to actively exploited young people and children in Oakland, San Francisco, Richmond, Sacramento, etc. I also began to share my story publicly to raise awareness and break the silence for others. For example, Love Never Fails organized a march called "Walk the Track" in 2012 and I spoke out about the need for the community to respond to the needs of these victims (http://sacramento.cbslocal.com/video/7580035-supporters-of-the-prop-35-ballot-measure-march-in-oakland/ ). Additionally I continue to share my experience and provide guidance in schools such as Mission Valley ROP and local government events such as the SF Collaborative against Human Trafficking (http://sf-hrc.org/index.aspx?page=208). The actions that I have taken have begun a healing process in me that is undeniable and I am eager to support as many young people as I can.
Each and every one of us has a purpose in this crazy world. I am so grateful to have finally discovered my own.
LNF provides survivor services, mentoring for at-risk youth and delivers an abuse prevention curriculum in public schools willing to participate. If you or anyone that you know can benefit from our services or you feel moved to get involved please check out our website http://www.loveneverfailsus.com or contact me @ email@example.com