Survivors of human trafficking with sexual exploitation have so many shadows. I could write a lot about anxiety seizures when the only thing I can think of is fear that pushes on from everywhere and nowhere. But this time there is something else I would like to tell you about.
There was this boy. He is such a strong soul. Such a fighter. He ran from home when he was nine and he has taken care of himself since. I have heard stories about parties, drinking, drugs, hunger, cold. About betrayal and how he learned that he could trust no-one. About how strong each person has to be to take responsibility for their own choices. We talked a lot about this.
HE IS CONVINCED THAT EVERYTHING IN HIS LIFE IS HIS OWN CHOICE. HIS FREE-WILLED CHOICE.
And maybe it has been exactly this that has helped him through all challenges on his way.
I remember this one sunny day that we spent together many, many years ago. We were miners at this time, and we worked under the control of traffickers. On this specific day we were allowed to go to a shop and by some treats for ourselves. So there we were – two kids walking down the road, with bags full of sweets and eating ice cream. I remember that it was a very sunny and warm day, and we walked for a long time very quietly. Both of us were being buried by our own dark, heavy thoughts. We were so quiet and serious.
UNTIL HE SUDDENLY BROKE OUT IN A LOUD ANGER OUTBREAK!
I just didn’t understand what was happening, I stopped and stared at him like I really didn’t know if I should be afraid of him or what.
“I just don’t understand how they want us to put this fucking condom on with a mouth!” he screamed. He didn’t care if anyone would hear us, or what they would think about us. We were already outsiders, and nothing could make it worse. He was so angry at this moment, like I have never seen him before. He was angry at customers who bought us for one or two rounds, and who demanded some weird stuff. I could understand him so well!
FOR SOME MOMENTS WE LOOKED AT EACH OTHER IN SILENCE, AND THEN WE STARTED TO LAUGH. WE LAUGHED LIKE WE HAD NEVER LAUGHED TOGETHER BEFORE. I REMEMBER THIS LIKE IT WAS YESTERDAY: WE STOOD THERE ON THIS ROAD, WITH ICE-CREAMS IN OUR HANDS, AND WE LAUGHED UNTIL WE CRIED.
I remember this moment because it was the only time we laughed so well in this period of time in our lives. Many years later I found this boy again. Now a man. And he is doing well. We came out of this as winners, we didn’t give up and we never will. And in one conversation he told me:
“Even though things were as bad as they were at this time, Regina, we still found something to laugh about and be happy. And this is what means to be a survivor.”
Written by survivor of human trafficking in childhood,
Regina Lee Jones.