An unvarnished account of one woman's painful “journey from victim to survivor,” as she came to understand the “dynamics of commercial sexual exploitation, especially child sex trafficking.”
In this debut, Smith, a public advocate for trafficking victims, begins in 1992 with her own experience. At the age of 14, she was briefly a prostitute before being rescued by the police. Since she was manipulated rather than subjected to violence, she was shamed by the false belief that she had chosen to be a prostitute. Only in 2009, three years after her marriage, did she feel able to reveal her story and give testimony before Congress. She blames the media for objectifying sexuality and creating an environment in which an estimated 100,000 in the U.S. are victimized annually. Smith describes how one afternoon, she was walking through the mall when a young man approached her. They flirted briefly, and he slipped her his phone number, asking her to get in touch. She describes her vulnerability to his approach. She was socially insecure. Both of her parents were alcoholics, and before the age of 10, she had been repeatedly abused sexually by a cousin. In her eagerness to have a boyfriend, she responded to his come-on and agreed to a meeting. As it turned out, he was profiling her for a pimp, and it was the pimp who met her—accompanied by a prostitute, there to show her the ropes. Their approach was nonthreatening, and they suggested that, in the future, she might have a career in modeling. Many unhappy children, writes the author, “are lured into trusting their traffickers” due to their lack of self-esteem. In the aftermath of the experience, although she finished college and had a successful career, Smith struggled with depression and substance abuse.
A powerful voice on behalf of young people who should not be stigmatized but need support from schools and communities to protect them from predators.