I used to be a normal high school student. I had been on School Council since junior high and I was a top competitor on the swim team. In my free time, I modeled with a prestigious agency and landed major fashion shows and music videos. That all changed when I was taken from my mom because of abuse. I was stripped of that life and exposed to a new one.
At 17-years-old, I experienced much beyond my years. I was a ward of the State of California and lived in over 12 places in less than a year. Moving from one group home to the next, I gave up on ever having a safe family.
But then, I met Lisa. A friend from school introduced me to her, and we hit it off from the start. She begged her mom to help me, and I moved in with them Thanksgiving 2010. I was finally with someone who cared, in a place I wanted to be. Over the next few months, she became the sister I never had.
The day after Christmas, she met an older boy on Facebook. He told her that with her good looks, she could make a thousand dollars every night. I had seen enough movies to know this sounded like trouble. But no matter what I said, she just wouldn’t listen to me. She said I was crazy and jealous because she finally got a boyfriend.
Needless to say, she invited him to come over. The next day, he rolled up with a friend in a brand new Jaguar; we couldn’t believe it. We thought we had landed some really good guys for once. Looking at their clothes and car, we thought they were solid. That first day, they were complete gentlemen.
Shortly after that, the boys suggested we go to their hotel to relax. When we arrived there, they introduced us to Oreo, a beautiful older woman. Oreo quickly took us under her wing and told us how these guys had helped her to become rich. She said that she would be willing to teach us too. The next thing I knew, she was getting us high.
My next clear memory was standing in a small dress and heels on a street corner in Los Angeles on a cold winter night.
My feet ached as if I had been there for hours, but I had no recollection of how I got there. A car pulled over and Oreo asked the man, “Who do you want, baby?”
The man pointed to me, and she said, “There you go, Sugar; this is your chance.”
The next three weeks were a complete blur; they kept on giving us drugs and pushing us into cars. February 11, 2011, I was arrested in Las Vegas for prostitution and placed at Children of the Night, a program that helps kids get out of human trafficking.
It is still hard for me to believe what happened. It all happened so quickly, and no matter how many times I play it through, it just doesn’t make sense. Since then, I have had a good deal of therapy, graduated from high school and moved into The Teen Project. I am attending college to be a fashion designer.
My sister, Lisa, never made it out. She calls me from time to time, crying and pleading for help, but a few hours later she calls back, saying she is fine. She says she loves him too much to leave. I know now that I can never go back for her; I’d be risking my own life.
I pray for her and all of the other young girls that talk to strangers on the Internet.
It was only three weeks of my life, but the vivid details of what occurred will never leave me.
I am forever changed by human trafficking.
The Teen Project provides young women (18-24 years old) who are homeless after foster care and at risk homeless youth with room and board, college support, paid job internships, savings program, automobile obtainment program and independent living education. Learn more at theteenproject.com.