Survivors of human trafficking need help in wiping legal slate clean

Photo purchased from iStock at Getty Images

Photo purchased from iStock at Getty Images

Should a 14-year-old child trafficked into the sex trade be considered a criminal, or a victim?

What about a 42-year-old adult who was trafficked at 14 and didn’t escape “the life” for 28 years? Aren’t both deserving of a second chance?

Until 2012, the only life I knew was one of prostitution. It started in my early teens when I was trafficked by a pimp who first pretended to be my boyfriend. It didn’t end until nearly three decades later when a probation officer told me about a local nonprofit, Breaking Free.

During those dark years, I was beaten countless times, convicted of five felonies, went through treatment for drug and alcohol addictions 13 times, and had four children. While I told myself prostitution was a career I wanted, I now know that being exploited is never a choice.

Now, at 47, for the first time in my life I am truly on my own. Free from pimps, drugs and a destructive lifestyle, I now work as an advocate for other sex-trafficking survivors. But that freedom hasn’t come easy for me, and it is not a given for the women I work with every day who are struggling to fully recover from an experience most people can scarcely imagine.

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