Shared with permission. 2015.
“A Life with Lemons”
I came from a poor family, we were below the poverty line. I was 18, living in the Central Valley and had just graduated from high school feeling lost with no direction. I was on Myspace one day and met a guy named “D”, who seemed interested in me. He asked about my family and wanted to know my story. He asked about my parents. I told him about our struggles and that I didn’t want to be in the same situation as them. We eventually met in person. He came and picked me up in a really fancy car and took me shopping and to dinner. He treated me wonderful. I had never been treated this way.
During this friendship, he told me about an “opportunity” to make better money than I was making at my minimum wage job. He told me that I would be able to help my parents by sending them the extra money. Which led me to believe that my problems were over. From that point on it was a whirl wind. He took me to fancy places and treated me with shopping sprees. All the while I was working for him. Doing anything he asked. He told me he loved me and that I mattered.
This soon changed and went from a “loving” relationship to a slave situation. Over the next three years and 12 states, in between the beatings, arrests, and being forced to give sex for money, daily, my family was looking for me. They put out a missing persons report. However, when I was stopped by the police they saw the missing person’s report and chose to ignore it because I was not a minor.
By this time we were in Las Vegas and his control over my life and my actions was so powerful, I felt that I could never get away! I was too afraid to ask for help. It wasn’t until I was so beat down, physically and mentally, that I got to the point where I gave up. Gave up on caring if I lived or died. That was when I realized I needed to get out. So I ran away while he was sleeping and called a “friend”. As we were about to get away he woke up and chased us down. We were at a stop light and saw a police man in his car. We flagged him down to get help. “D” saw us from across the street, but I didn’t care I just wanted to be with my mom again!
They saw the bruises on my body and asked if he was responsible. It was then that I told the police everything! They arrested him, but only charged him for the domestic violence case not the fact that he was a pimp. He is still out to this day. Still out there preying on others girls.
The police let me go and said that I could keep “working” to get myself back on my feet and enough money to go home. They told me that they wouldn’t arrest me if they saw me on the street. So for the year, I went on doing what I was taught to survive.
After a year on the streets, not caring if I had warrants for my arrest in California, I called my family to come get me. I was willing to risk my freedom for my freedom. My grandparents have sacrificed everything to keep me free. Their money went to plane tickets and lawyer’s fees to get me the help I needed to fix what he broke. They then spent more money to get my warrants cleared.
Although I am on the right path, I still struggle being that it is near impossible to get honest work because of my arrests. I have graduated from EMT school, however I cannot get my license to work in this field because of failed background checks from the prior convictions.
We have always heard the expression “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade”, back in 2013 after struggling for almost 3 years trying to piece together my life after being trafficked; I had always wonder why God gave me a bowl of lemons. I cried out, ‘God, why did you give me lemons? Couldn’t you have given me apple or oranges? I don’t have any sugar and I barely have any water.’ That’s when I realized I wasn’t supposed to make lemonade, I was being called to take my life of lemons and raise awareness about human trafficking.
Now that I am no longer trapped by being trafficked, I have the freedom to express myself, learn about who I am and what I love.
The markings of my trafficked life still have an effect on me to this day, even with an extensive record but in spite of all that, God has blessed my life in so many ways. I have a full time job, a beautiful daughter and just got my very own apartment.
My favorite part of me being free from bondage: is the opportunity I have to get involved in my community by joining forces with not only the Central Valley Justice Coalition, but also Breaking The Chains and Made For Them.
I am most thankful for all the work God is doing in my life and for all of my fellow freedom fighters, being able to not only see first hand the work that is going on to combat human trafficking, here in the central valley, but I am thankful that my story helps make a difference.