This is the second part of Z’s story of surviving sex trafficking. In the introductory first part Z explained why she has decided to tell her story. Throughout the interview Kingdom in the Midst will be abbreviated KM.
KM: Tell us a little of your childhood.
Z: I was born in a small town, into a family that was well respected. To outsiders we were the picture perfect family who had everything and had everything together.
I was an extremely quiet kid, and didn’t talk until I was 4. My parents thought I was autistic or retarded. I’m not sure which. It’s easy for me to experience sensory overload. Too much sensory input leaves no room in my head for any output. So the truth is I was just too overwhelmed with the noises of my environment and with listening to other people talk to find the energy to talk myself. Most of the time talking is a chore for me still.
KM: How old were you when the abuse started?
Z: My dad started molesting me when I was in 1st grade. He would wake me up and have me stand in the corner of my room. He would put his hands in me until I blacked out. After that, I don’t remember much – I really only remember being sick a lot and missing a lot of school.
I remember being really attached to my 1st grade teacher. I remember when they would take us to the bathroom being terrified of going because it hurt. I remember not wanting to drink anything so that I wouldn’t have to pee. I remember knowing that I was the worst kid in my school and that’s why the bad thing happened to me. I thought that I deserved to feel that pain because I was bad and could never be good.
Later in elementary school a family member died on a day I was having a sleepover after school. I was really torn because my Mom was supposed to pick my friends and I up from school but she only picked up me. I cried when my parents told me about the death, but was worried about my friends and sleepover. My Dad hit me across the face and I didn’t say anything for several days.
KM: Were there other instances of abuse in your childhood?
Z: Yes. My friend’s dad was the pastor at my church. However, he was also not a very nice man. When I would spend the night at her house, he would come into her room at night and fondle both of us. It was a long time before I realized that that wasn’t ok. It seemed normal to me; my dad did things like that. It made sense to me that her dad did as well. One day when we were playing at the church he molested us in his office.
This “pastor” baptized me when I was 8. It now makes me want to throw up. I was spending the night at her house on a Saturday. She was getting baptized the next day. I don’t really remember being aware of that, but at church the next morning she was getting dressed in the white angel robes they make you wear. She pulled me back in the room with her, and her dad told me I was getting baptized as well. I didn’t, and don’t, really know what was up with that. But I got baptized in a white angel robe, too. I was terrified and soaking wet, and I didn’t have dry clothes to put on afterwards. It was a little bit terrible.
KM: Most people who are trafficking victims, especially related to sex, experience manipulation from an authority figure. Was this true for you?
Z: Always from my dad.
There was no part of my life that he didn’t control in some way. This includes things like showering, sleeping, eating, and music. I had to do chores to earn time to take a shower and to be able to eat. If I didn’t finish my shower in the amount of time that I had earned, he would come in after me. He would monitor my food very closely, or just give me the food that I was allowed–by him–to eat. When he thought I had eaten enough, he would take food from me. Because of this I’m sort of socially stupid when eating is involved. I never learned things like appropriate portioning, nutritional needs, or when it’s ok to eat and when it’s not. I was taught that it’s never ok to drink anything when you’re eating, so, I’m almost never thirsty, or I don’t pay attention to it if I am. I just tried not to be hungry, because he wouldn’t let me eat even if I was.
KM: When and how did the abuse intensify?
Z: Sometime before high school I started working at my dad’s work after school and during the summer (when I wasn’t at a school practice of some kind). In my head I think that sort of felt like the beginning of the end. I was around my dad way more than I ever wanted to be, and that’s exactly the way he wanted it. I mostly worked alone in the back of the office building. My dad’s anger and rage were always unpredictable and I was always walking on eggshells. I could never judge when things would happen with him, and I would try to predict things based on his mood, words, and posture. It wasn’t a very reliable help. So I never really knew when he was going to choose to hurt me. When he did, he would come to the back with me and lock the door. This gave him time and room to do what he wanted. Namely, hold me up against the wall and rape me. In my head that seemed inescapable and unavoidable, so I pretty much didn’t even bother trying. I convinced myself that I was asking for it – that if I really wanted it to stop, I would have found a new job. In reality, I wasn’t even old enough to have real job. Compliance became survival.