And Life Continues: Sex Trafficking and My Journey to Freedom
By Wendy Barnes
As I read And Life Continues, I was struck by the quality of the writing, the ability to share a very brutal and profoundly personal story with such a clear voice…a voice filled with compassion for all people victimized by traffickers, buyers and society, as well as for herself, the broken child in a woman’s body that was Wendy. This book provides a very real account of the “Romeo” pimp’s ability to destroy and control others and the complexity of the relationships in a pimp/trafficker’s “game”. It is hard to understand for someone outside that world, and Wendy is able to help the reader follow the thinking pattern that kept the girls and women locked down under Greg Hightower’s control.
And Life Continues is, at times, a difficult read. There are moments of frustration as you begin to hope Wendy will actually leave the life and start over, just to find the lies and the beaten down self-esteem overtake her again. But there is hope. Members of law enforcement who saw and treated her as a person with dignity, family that never gave up, school counselors, probation officers, co-workers who heard the full story, and instead of jumping to judgment, showed compassion, and saw it all for what it was---enslavement. And in Wendy, they saw not a criminal, not a scarlet letter, but a survivor! Throughout the reading of the book, you witness the metamorphosis, slow and steady. With each new struggle, a little more confidence and a little more strength gained, until there’s finally enough to break the cycle and emerge victorious.
Reading this book made me ponder just how many of the adolescents and young adults walking the street, turning tricks, beaten and coerced, are actually gifted artists, business people, writers, athletes, mathematicians, teachers, and lawyers who are being denied the chance to develop---who have been deemed throwaways of our society and have begun to internalize and believe that message themselves. My hope for each one of them, and, in turn, for all of us as a society is that we would not accept a class of people as disposable. And my prayer is that each one of them would be met with compassion, respect, and kindness, so that those seeds planted by people they encounter, who see the as the people they are truly meant to be versus what they are being forced to do, would grow and blossom, and we will all be the better for it.
I recommend this book for anyone who is involved in the anti-trafficking movement providing direct services to survivors, for anyone who has asked the question “why don’t the victims just ask for help or run away,” and for anyone who wants to understand how difficult the journey away from the life can be. And Life Continues will open your eyes and deepen your compassion.