I have read that child sex trafficking victims have a life expectancy between 3 years and 7 years. They die from sexually transmitted diseases, starvation and physical abuse. Since only 1% of victims are ever rescued, trafficking is a death sentence. This is one of the ways that pimps keep from being caught by police. The victims (and witnesses) just disappear. I can only imagine there must be some relief for a pimp when a victim dies. That’s one less witness to worry about.
As a trafficking survivor, I am a lucky one. I’m alive. Unlike most pimps, my parents actually cared if I died. And I learned defense mechanisms which kept me from self destructing. And of course, at 18, I got to leave.
I wonder about what my parents and grandparents thought would happen when I grew up. I know it is a stretch to use the word “thought”. They clearly weren’t thinking. However, if someone is going to abuse their children, what happens when that child is an adult? What happens when the power differential disappears?
I guess they are banking on the shame. I guess they are expecting that their victims will continue to blame themselves for the abuse they experienced. Or maybe they are expecting the victims’ trauma-induced defense mechanisms will keep them from fighting back – even in adulthood. It certainly worked that way for me.
I now remember the day that I decided to forget. I was about 9 years old and I was devastated. I had confided in a young adult neighbor about my ordeal, and I thought he would “save” me from my situation. I thought he would help me escape. He had a run-in with my father which did not go well. He was very intimidated by him. He left for college without doing anything. His leaving dashed my last hope. At that moment, I knew I had no way out. I tried to kill myself, but I was not successful. I really didn’t know what I was doing, and some part of me knew I had to stay alive. My child’s brain had no ability to process the terror and hopelessness that I was feeling, so I employed a defense that is used very commonly among trauma victims.
I made a conscious decision to hide my trauma from my consciousness. I disassociated. I forgot all of the traumatic events in my life. If it was possible to forget people, I forgot them too. From that day forward, if I experienced abuse or trafficking or anything traumatic, I forgot it almost immediately. I packed all of these experiences away in a corner of my brain, and I lived as though they never happened.
But of course, they did happen. And they were running my life from the unconscious “driver’s seat” where they were stored. I spent most of my twenties and thirties living a lie. I tried to function as a “normal” person while I was severely plagued with anxiety. I was ADD, OCD, panic-stricken and a bit paranoid. I didn’t trust anyone. I never showed emotions. I saw them as weak and unnecessary. My relationships were disastrous and usually involved addicts who were just as traumatized as me.
My body was falling apart. I was dealing with chronic pain and inflammation in many areas including most of my joints. I had significant fertility problems. I was allergic to everything. Every time I went to the doctor, there was no explanation. There was no cure. I was a medical enigma. Most doctors just gave up. They had no idea what to do with me. I took up yoga, Reiki, massage, chiropractic and healthy eating to help with my physical pain. Unfortunately, they only lessened it temporarily. It never went away.
And then the kids came. There is nothing like a couple of kids to stir up all the pain and trauma that’s been nicely stored away. I remember sitting on my couch staring at my four-week-old son. It became clear in that moment that he was desperately trying to tell me something. There was something I had to address. He knew it. I knew it. Even without the conscious knowledge of my childhood experiences, I knew it. Within days, I was finding a therapist. And then, the work began.
I have been recovering memories for four years now. It is not an easy process because there is a tremendous amount of physical and emotional pain with each new realization. However, I am learning to let go of my old belief patterns. I am not sick anymore. I am not anxious anymore. I finally have self-esteem. I am slowly finding the strength to tell my story. I am learning that my life is mine to lead. And in finding my own power, I am learning how to trust others. Most importantly, I am learning how to love myself and my children wholeheartedly.
Although I will discuss my childhood story on this blog, this is not just a story of a tragic life. The focus of this blog is how I have recovered. I want to share that with the world. I want others to understand that past life events do not have to run our lives in the present or the future. Recovery is possible. I know it, because I did it.