• Athena Ives

The Night her Life Changed

When you immerse yourself into a culture while researching, you are an observer and that is often one of the most challenging parts!

I didn't speak the language so I was unable to understand what they were saying. However, their body language, the nervous movements, and forced smiles were a language in itself. A language so powerful, I could feel the fear and anxiety as I sat and observed. The first sip of alcohol turned into more and more drinks in hopes to numb the nerves and dull the mind.

She was waiting for midnight, her 18th birthday, when she would enter into the sex working industry. It was ironic because I was celebrating my birthday that night as well. I received a cake and flowers, she lost her clothing and innocence. The clock struck midnight and the already initiated women gathered around her and encouraged her, fed her more alcohol, and helped her climb on stage. A Caucasian man that looked to be in his 70s took a liking to her. After her timid dance, she took her turn on the floor moving from man to man. The 70-year-old put his calloused and dirty hands on her childlike body. I wanted to vomit. I wanted to grab her and drag her out of there.

I could feel the disgust when his hands touched her. He called over the "Madam" and the exchange took place. The girls gathered around her, hugging her, trying to relax her, pouring drinks down her throat. I could see the tears pooling and her trying to keep them from falling onto her cheeks. Moments later, she was being lead up the stairs by a man that was older than her Grandfather. As I watched her walk up the stairs, seeing the fear in her eyes, I couldn't hold my own tears back and I quickly left the bar.

“The difference between a child victim of sex trafficking and an adult victim of sex trafficking is 60 seconds,” she said. “Nothing changed as I turned 18 years old. I was still being victimized. It still was not something I wanted to be doing. I spent the majority of my adult life involved in prostitution, sometimes with a third-party exploiting me and sometimes because I didn’t feel like I had any other options or any other worth in this world” said Nicole Bell, who worked as a prostitute after being trafficked as a teen (Gallucci, 2019).