How could this happen in a suburb of Washington D.C.? People would have seen something. Somebody would have said something or called the police. What about your family? What about your mother? Why didn’t you tell anyone?
I’ve heard all of these responses. Nobody wants to believe it. Nobody wants to admit that it is possible for this level of absurdity to happen in our modern, civilized society. As Americans, we like to label our country as “first world” or “developed”. We are quick to judge other countries for human rights violations, but it is difficult for us to face our own. So we don’t look for it. We ignore it. We pretend it isn’t there.
Of course, there’s another problem. Families that are engaged in this type of activity don’t decide to traffic their children on a whim. It’s a plan. If someone is an expert bank robber, and is clearly breaking the law, they have a detailed plan that will ensure they do not get caught. Abusive families work the same way. They have a detailed plan.
My family had a plan. Sexual abuse and trafficking were pervasive in my family for many generations, so they had perfected the art of grooming a child for this lifestyle. My parents were brainwashed by my grandparents to believe that there were power inequities between adults and children, and between men and women, that were meant to be exploited. It became such a part of who they were that their abusive behavior was completely unconscious.
I wanted to believe that my mother didn’t know about the abuse. I stopped believing that when I became a parent. I realized what I had always known. It would have been impossible not to have known … especially since I told her. I asked her for help many times. The most common response from her was, “Now don’t be making things up. That’s not nice.” Sometimes, she would just look at me like I was crazy, and she had no idea what I was talking about. My grandmother’s response was even worse. She actually told me that “men have certain urges that they can’t control, and it is our job as women to meet their needs.”
The sexual abuse started when I was three years old. My abusers knew the strategy. Indoctrinate the child as young as possible. Make sure she understands that this is a normal interaction between a child and an adult. If something goes wrong (if the abuser almost gets caught), make sure the child understands that it was all her fault. The more shame the child takes on, and the more the child believes she is doing something wrong, the less trouble the child will be. If the child is a talker (which I was), squelch the talking as fast as possible with physical violence and death threats. Only use the physical violence as a last resort because there are potential marks or hospital visits associated with that. It can be dangerous. And for goodness sake, never let the doctors do a pelvic exam.
By the time the trafficking started, I was fully brainwashed. I was eight years old. My trauma-induced defense mechanisms were working overtime and it was dramatically impacting my memory. I was so stressed that I was coming down with mysterious illnesses for which the doctor’s had no diagnoses. Most importantly, I had no hope and no self-esteem. I hated myself. And my father knew it. He knew he had broken me.