Violence and cruelty were part of my daily life
I was only 2 weeks old when my mother abandoned me. I was raised by a family who treated me more like a slave than a child. I kind of compared myself to Cinderella, but the charming prince was not part of my story…
I couldn’t wait to strike out on my own as soon as I turned 18, and I started hanging out with friends who were strippers from Toledo. I started having financial problems to the point of being evicted from my apartment. I knew I couldn’t go home and I was feeling desperate, struggling to survive each day. So my new friends persuaded me to try stripping too. I was very shy, but I needed the money, so I did it.
It was then that I was first approached by a guy named Robert. I actually knew he was a pimp; I just didn’t recognize how dangerous it was to accept his help, and he came to me at a time of real crisis in my life. Not only did he help me with rent and furniture, he even got me gifts and made me feel loved, wanted, comforted and special. I told myself that I was different, that he really loved me, and I came to trust him unconditionally. Then one day he said we were going for a ride to Indianapolis for a day trip, and that is when my life changed forever.
He told me that now I worked for him and I had to do everything he said, which meant selling myself. He watched me every moment during work hours and when I was not working I was not allowed to go outside unless I was with him. I was not to even look around but had to keep my head down, looking at my feet or the floor at all times. If I looked up, I would later be beaten when I got back to the house. These beatings were done with anything he could get his hands on, including broomsticks and metal hangers, and he often burned me with candles or cigarettes. Violence and cruelty were part of my daily life. Once, I ended up in intensive care and I knew then that he could and would kill me for breaking any of his rules.
I was terrified of the consequences of trying to run or of telling someone what was happening to me. I would do anything he said rather than get beaten again. (I actually did try to leave Robert one time to go with some other pimps that worked together, thinking they were less violent. They both raped me repeatedly and I was worse off than with Robert. I got pregnant as a result of those rapes.)
In Indianapolis we worked at the Dollar Inn lot where the truck drivers parked; they referred to us as “lot lizards”. How many guys I saw a night just depended on the numbers– how many buyers versus how many of us were working. Some nights I might have 10. Some nights I lost track, like the time I had to work for 36 hours straight as a punishment, making almost $3000. But no matter how much money I made, or how much I earned in tips, I was never allowed to keep any of the money. If he found any money on me, I would be accused of stashing it for a get-away, and punished severely.
Not only did I work in Indiana, but anywhere my pimp traveled. Since we girls had to be supervised at all times we would have to travel where he did and work in that city. One time, traveling to Oklahoma City, we went to a truck stop where we were stopped by a cop. Nobody was arrested though; $85 made him forget what he saw.
Violence and cruelty came from the customers also. I always had a quota to work off each night, and one time towards the end of my shift, a trucker and his accomplice robbed me at gunpoint and then took me away from the lot to rape me. Then they dumped me in a field with nothing but underwear and a shirt on. I ended up having a baby as a consequence of this rape also.
In spite of the consequences, I periodically tried to run away. Fortunately, I finally succeeded. Two years later Robert was up for trial and I found the courage to be a witness against him. I moved to a new state and a new city where nobody knew me and nobody would judge me. I want to be an example to other trafficking victims and tell them that there are ways to get out, and good people who can support them and help them in their journey to a new life.