**Potential TRIGGER WARNING and is for mature audiences-sexual abuse and Human Trafficking content.**
“Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil…” 1 Timothy 6:9-10
I was speaking at a conference recently about the topic of Human Trafficking and sharing my story, and a young girl raised her hand and asked me the most gut-wrenching question I’ve ever been asked.
“So, how much did the men pay for you?”
I was in shock. But not for the reason you might think. She had NO idea what that question would do to me and neither did I.
See, I didn’t know it at the time…but I had a secret shame deep down inside. And when she asked the question…it was like I was being hit with a a giant rogue tsunami wave.
Stunned…I finally answered her and said, “I’m not sure. I couldn’t say.” Immediately, I felt shame. My mind went back in time to my own story, enslaved to a man’s ferocious sexual appetite and control. Images and emotions flooded my heart and mind.
I was 5 years old when my sexual abuse began. My mom was dating a man who was an Antiques Dealer and would leave me with him when she would go to work. He was nice at first, but then began touching me and forcing me to touch him.
It didn’t hurt at first because he groomed me slowly…to get used to his touch. It’s perfectly natural for an adult to tickle a kid. What’s not okay is to tickle a kid on their breasts or private parts. Tickling led to kissing, which led to masturbation, oral sex and then finally penetration.
He would threaten to hurt me or my mother and one day…he made good on that threat. People have asked me about the timeline of events…as if a 5 year old who was trying to comprehend what was being done to her body…could discern.
I was a KID, so I’m not sure the exact amount of time it took from the touching to rape…but what I like to tell people is…it was methodical, calculated and he was very patient because he was in it for the long game. He knew exactly what he was doing from day one.
Sometimes you can put things out of your mind.
Some things you’ll never forget…
My mom is working, and her boyfriend is again, in charge of babysitting me. We’re at his house this time. He’s got lots of fancy things and fun brand new toys that I’ve never seen before. He puts me in the bathtub and then gives me some medicine to help me feel in his words, “better”.
I have one of his t-shirts on for pajamas and he tells me to get in his bed. He sits down on the bed and pulls the t-shirt off so that I’m lying there naked. Then he tells me that I am to “lay still” as he ties my hands to the headboard. My heart is pounding because I can hear it…and I know that he’s going to touch me.
He says, “You’re gonna be a good girl and do as I say and you WILL like it, won’t you? You’ll like it because you’re a dirty girl, Sonya. (In total admiration and pride) he says, “Look at you. You’ve been begging for it all day. Only dirty girls like it. Do what I say and no noise.”
Touching my face, “You know what will happen if you don’t. Don’t you?” I nod. Then he tightens his grip till it hurts…and kisses my lips saying, “Good girl.”
My eyes are heavy and I think I’ve fallen asleep until there’s a knock at the door and my worst nightmare begins.
Some men come in and take their seats, like it’s the most natural thing in the world for a little girl to be tied to a bed, naked. He begins to tell them the “rules” for this game. The only thing I hear is “No touching unless you pay!”
As I look around the room, the men are drinking or doing something with white powdery stuff. (*I know now that they were drinking alcohol and doing drugs.) I hear words like “fresh meat,” and “split her open,” and “I hope she’s worth it.”
The one comment that has haunted me…even to this day is…“I need to go first…cause my kids’ got a program at school at 6.”
I see money handed to my mom’s boyfriend and he begins to touch my body. As the men settle in to watch, I close my eyes as tightly as I can. It’s better if I can’t see.
After a while, I hear a man say, “My turn.” I open my eyes to see a dark haired man pulling down his pants and climbing up on the bed. As he puts his hand on my vagina, I flinch. He grabs me by the neck and the boyfriend grabs him and says, “No marks or it’s double!”
Then he grabs my face roughly and says, “You little slut! You will take all I have to give you.” He takes some money out of his pocket and throws it at me. All I can see is a confetti of bills in the air above me. I can hear the ruffle of the paper floating around me and feel the flutter of it as it falls against my skin.
He rapes me.
One after the other, climb on top of me…to do what they want to my body. I’ve heard them laughing. Someone called me “pretty.” Someone called me “ugly.” Each one grunted and groaned until they got what they paid for.
Here’s what I remember most…I hurt everywhere. Sometimes I can still remember the smells: smoke, sweat and alcohol. My body is shaking and I feel cold. I’m covered in semen.
The last man stands next to the bed, staring at me. He just stares into my eyes. He looks sad. For a moment, I feel hopeful because I think he’s not going to do anything. Then he slowly takes off his t-shirt and covers my eyes. My heart sinks as I can feel the bed dip and feel his body on mine.
He rapes me, too.
The whole time I can feel the money on my body. The sound the paper makes. The feeling as it touches my naked skin. I’m thinking to myself, “How much money is this? How much did they pay?”
But the story doesn’t end there. It’s just beginning. You’ve heard me say it 100’s of times. We’ve all got crud. Well, I’ve got crud, too. I had a secret. Secrets are NEVER good. Secrets keep the pain…hidden in darkness and shame.
Discover what happens next in Part 2 – “For Sale-A Girl Named Sonya”