What it means to be a “trafficking victim”

What it means to me to be a trafficking victim may not be what you think. I do not consider myself a victim. Was I victimized??? Yes. Most absolutely. But I do not choose to wear that as my identity.

In 2004 I was 18 and just moved to the upper west side of New York City. All through high school I participated in the running start program which meant I got to take college classes instead of high school. This meant I got to get a job- an under the table probably not very legal job- as a secretary working 40-50 hours per week. I saved up enough to be able to move to New York sight unseen- no family, friends, nothing- right after high school.

Not even a month after I was there in New York, I met a guy. He told me he was going to be my boyfriend and we would live together but he just needed to get more money first. Then he would show up with a group of drug dealers in a black escalade -like a movie- and we would ride up to industrial nowheres land up in the Bronx (back then there wasn’t much gentrification in the BX or the Heights .) I would be locked in a room and drug dealers- big fat drug dealers, old drug dealers- who obviously got whatever the fuck they wanted. No one told me what would happen whenever I got in that black SUV and every time my so called “boyfriend” would promise “that’s the last time I swear.” Even after I saw the men slipping money in his hand, even after my “boyfriend” offered me up to a homeless wino in the park for $5, I never thought I was being abused or victimized. Even after the multiple rapes and gang rapes, many under weapons other in public, completely humiliating me, the only way I knew to cope was to return to drugs and alcohol and to distance myself from my body.

It doesn’t help when the Sex Workers’ rights community and the anti-trafficking community (very often at odds with each other,) has discussions about “what” a “trafficking victim” is without including us in that discussion. Let me tell you- I AM A SEX WORKER. I have had sex by force and I have participated in the industry by choice. Even those who would say they have never been trafficked may have experienced some degree of force, abuse or coercion – even if it’s just the force and coercion of having no money that puts that person into the sexual economy. So don’t fucking tell me who I am please- sex workers’ rights activists or any “activist” for that matter. We need to have a way more complex, inclusive and dynamic conversation about what sex work really looks like because it isn’t just one thing OR the other. Sex work is like sexuality- a complex trajectory of being. And I know I am not the only sex worker who has both chosen the industry and then been abused by that same industry. Because I am a Sex Worker. By force at times and by choice others. Period.



  1. Pingback: Lo que significa ser una “víctima de trata” | El estante de la Citi
  2. devin · January 17, 2016

    Idk what to say i do feel bad and sorry this happened to you i wish i could help but as you pointed out even the the anti traffic ppl did really listen to you if i can do anything to help please let me know


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  4. Jp · January 19, 2016

    Thanks for sharing. Sex work is not unlike other industries – it’s got a range of experiences and there exists varying degrees of exploitation of labor. It’s also criminalized largely here and that compounds the possibility for exploitation and limits recourse for us. I think the problem is people want to make it all good or all bad and doing so take away the voices of people with complicated narratives.


    • femmebadass · January 19, 2016

      Thank you so much for your comment! I could not agree more and you stated the case perfectly! Prostitution is looked at in only binary terms- either good or bad, forced or chosen- which is a completely myopic take on much more complex issues.

      Thanks so much!


  5. Marco Fornaro · January 19, 2016

    I like the strength that you shoot out in your posts, I like your life completely outside the box, and I like your freedom.
    I think that the sadness and loneliness are present in the lives of each of us, we tend to give our sufferings a special meaning, often associating it with the (alleged) mistakes we do in our life, a kind of lesson to be learnt or a punishment for something.
    Instead I think that suffering can be present even for no particular reason, suffering is inherently present in life together with pleasure.
    Said that, I really hope you can live and be rewarded with joy, maybe just in the life itself.


    • femmebadass · January 20, 2016

      That’s so true. Very astute observation. Thank you.


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