“Childhood sexual abuse is the boot camp for prostitution.”
This was a line spoken by Stephanie, a leader of the Net’s jail outreach program. While this sentence might be shocking, it was not new information to me. We learned in my Human Trafficking class that there are various push factors that may increase the likelihood of an individual being sex trafficked. Some examples of these push factors include physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, neglect, and addiction. However, despite having this previous knowledge, the way that Stephanie so casually mentioned the harsh reality that the already devastating sexual abuse of a child can lead to a prolonged lifetime of pain and suffering caught my attention in that moment. It suddenly shifted my perspective. I pictured the women currently sitting in that county jail, each suffering from either a current or past prostitution charge, as children. After all, they were all once little girls that due to devastating and undeserving circumstances ended up as victims of commercial sexual exploitation.
It made me sick to my stomach. I was blessed to be raised in a loving, protective home, never experiencing anything comparable to the trauma that these women have been through. I was privileged to live a childhood of pure innocence and bliss. I couldn’t help but to have a sea of questions spinning through my head.
What makes me so different from them?
What happened to those once little girls that ended them up here?
Did a family member betray them?
Did the system fail them?
Why are these victims sitting behind bars?
Where is the rehabilitation that they need?
Society tends to villainize prostituted women, while failing to recognize that they are all victims of force, fraud, or coercion. There must be a shift in the narrative to acknowledge the exploitation of these women and instead provide resources to empower them, heal them, and help them seek dignified employment. Likewise, the traffickers and demanders of commercial sex need to be held accountable for their inhumane and immoral actions.
I hope that my experience with the jail outreach program empowers you, as it has me, to take action in your community in order to join the fight against commercial sexual exploitation. Educate yourselves and others. Don’t be afraid to be a voice for those who are being silenced.
What are we going to do to protect our future little girls?
How are we going to heal the women who have suffered a lifetime of exploitation?
If you would like to find out more information on sex trafficking and what you can do to help, please visit this site.