Dear St. Louis,
This is a letter to each of you…you mothers, you sisters, you teachers, you pastors, you students, you fathers and brothers. We probably don’t know each other, so let me introduce myself.
I am a human trafficking survivor.
This may shock you, but I’m only 13 years old.
I’m also an honor roll student at a public school and I go to church most weeks. Oh, and I live with my mom (who loves me a lot).
That’s me. Now….
I have something to tell you all. It’s really important that you listen.
Human trafficking is wrong.
It’s scary and it should be stopped.
It’s happening here, in our neighborhoods.
It makes you feel…angry, sad, and sick to your stomachs to know girls my age and younger are being sold for sex in your community… for a reason. It should hurt us to know that someone would do this to another person. You should start thinking, “What if it were my friends?” or “What if it were my children?”. It’s good for us all that you start thinking that way.
I need you to care about trafficking because it is degrading to us girls…and to you grown-up girls. Please care because lives depend on you caring about unwanted sex; about daily rape. Care because it could be you.
Here are few other things I want you to know….
Teenager girls….we value education, our bodies, our futures, our individuality. Yeah OK, we like our phones and Facebook, but we love our friends, families and the love, stability and trust they provide us. But even with great parents (like the mom I have) we struggle. We need support, encouragement, information, healthy relationships, things to do and grace when we mess up.
I need you to know that we’re still learning and that we need your help…even when we act like we don’t. We can be manipulated, and we are vulnerable, but we aren’t stupid. I reeeeally want you to know that when it comes to girls like me, the ones who’ve been trafficked, that it is not our fault and it’s definitely not our choice! Girls just like me are targeted, manipulated, tricked and threatened when what we need most is support and honesty.
I want you to know that trafficking is happening right under your noses. It’s happening to the students in your classrooms, the girls on your soccer team, the students in your youth groups… It’s uncomfortable, so people don’t want to talk about it and if we don’t talk about it, people think they can ignore it. But we need to talk about it. Especially you grown ups! We need to acknowledge this problem and talk about how to find solutions. So, if you’ve been silent, start talking. Becasue as long as what happened to me is hidden in silence, girls like me won’t see any change.
Men of St Louis: I want you to know that even though your wife or daughters care because they’re girls, you should care because you are a guy. I want you to know that every time you view porn or go to a strip club you’re connected to trafficking. Please, be strong enough to stop. Ask yourself if your immediate, fleeting pleasure is really worth the harm that it brings to girls like me. Becasue even though I’m strong enough to speak about my story, I still live with an undeserved stigma and shame, with anger and with nightmares. So if you’re a father, raise the expectations by which you raise your sons. Because sexism plays a vital role in creating an environment for trafficking. Girls my age are already being sexualized (12-14), and everyone is vulnerable to the messages we hear about gender roles , the true ones and the lies. I want you to know that girls need community, love, confidence and patience.
St Louis, I don’t want you to only embrace that this is happening. I want you to get moving! Girls like me, who are being torn down need your help to stand up. Respect our experiences and abilities to lead you in helping us.
Lastly, I want you to know that I’m strong and brave and resilient, but there are hundreds of girls who aren’t as brave as me. So St Louis, please, open your eyes. It’s our community…lets make this our problem.
Nice to meet you.
Now you know. We’re in this fight together.
A victim no longer
***This story is based loosley on several stories of girls in the St. Louis area who have, in fact, been trafficked and rescued for survival.