Shamere McKenzie once believed her hopes of becoming an attorney were shattered. However, as the Policy Assistant at Shared Hope International she is now empowered to pick up the broken pieces and is determined to be an attorney.
Have you ever had something fall from your hands and shatter to pieces? You loved this thing; but as you stare on the broken pieces it’s clear that you can never put it back together. That is how I felt taking a plea to something I had no control over. I felt all my hopes and dreams were unachievable now that I had a felony conviction.
I was forced into the life of sex trafficking where fear was the number one thing that kept me enslaved to a guerilla pimp. Being physically and psychologically abused was one thing; but seeing others being physically and psychologically abused was another, as there was no way I could intervene. My experiences may be too gruesome for your stomach but the reality is it happened and I had no control over it. What would you do if a gun was placed to your head? What would you do if you were beaten to the point of unconsciousness? What would you do if your family was threatened?
Formal education or socioeconomic background does not exempt one from becoming a victim of sex trafficking. I was a 3rd year college student when this happened to me. A naïve 21-year-old girl who members of society may say is old enough to know better. Question is, at what age is one no longer naïve to ALL things? Yes, at this age there are some things I have a vast amount of knowledge on but this subject I knew nothing.
Standing in the courtroom listening to the judge say, Ms. McKenzie you are smart enough to know better, you are a college student. I believed her for that moment. I should have known better. Trying to justify that the judge was correct I asked myself, why did you go back to that monster after running away three times?
Then I remembered the fourth and final time I ran away and why it was permanent. The click of his gun and the one bullet that stood between life and death for me. The fear of him killing me or my family was gone and I went back home to my family. I obtained a job, an attorney and was in the process of enrolling in school when I was arrested by the FBI for being an accomplice in his criminal enterprise. Once I was his victim. Escape made me a survivor. But the justice system meant to protect me now called me a criminal. That’s when I felt my life was shattered into broken pieces and there was not enough super glue in the world to put it back together.
I could not understand how the FBI could not see that I was innocent. But they didn’t. So I was charged for driving minors across state lines for the purpose of prostitution. For driving! They didn’t understand how many times I told my pimp I didn’t want to drive and was beaten for it. At one point he even put a gun in my mouth and pulled the trigger—luckily the gun was unloaded. Now, I had to suffer. I thought ‘My life is over I might as well give up. What was there to live for? I told the truth and am still being severely punished. I might as well slice my wrist and just get it over with.’
My best friend chose to intervene and is one reason I am the Policy Assistant at Shared Hope International today. I found my super glue to put the pieces back together. Though the road may have been very rocky and I was faced with much adversity, I strongly believe my sex trafficking experience was a part of my destiny. I found the strength to live out my destiny, turning that negative situation into something positive. Once a victim – now the Protected Innocence Initiative Policy Assistant.
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