Abused as a small child and living with a drug-addicted mother, Sara was the ideal victim for the lure of a predator.
While other girls her age were in junior high school, Sara was experiencing the attention and ‘affections’ of a pimp who began to exercise control over her young mind.
When other girls were entering high school, Sara was already being sold to adults, forced to turn over her money to her ‘daddy’ and beaten if she resisted. In fact, Sara’s life up until her arrest was a litany of abuse and trauma, absent and predatory adults, failed systems and a total dearth of support and services.
It is clear that Sara never had the opportunity to be just a young girl and yet mentally and emotionally she was still very much a child.
The court could have decided to take all these mitigating factors into consideration when sentencing her, instead Sara was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
When I first learned about Sara’s case, I was horrified. It was such a clear and egregious abuse of the criminal justice system and my heart went out to this woman, just a few years younger than me who had grown up in jail.
It was hard for me not to feel a sense of survivor’s guilt and recognize that it could have easily been me waking up every day in prison. I remember vividly the night I decided to kill my pimp. It was 1994, the same year Sara was convicted. I was 19 years old, angry and desperate, trapped and hopeless. I knew I would probably go to jail but I didn’t care.
At the time I thought I planned it carefully, in retrospect there was no real plan in place, other than waiting until he was asleep to shoot him, as it would be the only time that I would be able to do it safely.
I knew a guy who knew a guy who would sell me the gun. I hid some of my earnings from my pimp and took the money to the guy.
Fate intervened and I was unable to purchase the gun that night. I lost my momentum, and while I thought about it many more times, I was never able to work up the nerve again to do it.
There is, however, little doubt in my mind that had the gun been in my hand that night, I would have pulled the trigger.
That was 16 years ago and it is hard today to not only picture how different my life could’ve been, but to reconcile that angry, traumatized girl with the woman that I am now.
Since then, I’ve been able to contribute to society in ways that no-one who met the teenaged me could have imagined. I’ve had a chance to travel, get my GED, go to graduate school, fall in love, find peace and most importantly, use my own experiences to provide services to thousands of trafficked and commercially sexually exploited girls.
Not only have I changed immeasurably in the last 16 years, but so has our collective understanding of the commercial sex industry.
When both Sara and I were being pimped and exploited, we weren’t considered trafficked youth, just “prostitutes.” cont’d on page 2