Amy’s Story: The Raw, Real & Unedited Truth about Child Trafficking
I don’t know if I can tell the story of how I became a trafficked child without speaking of how life was immediately before he came into our lives. I was the exact child who was spinning in the orbit of future trafficking. Before my abuser had access to me, I was a severely abused child, trying to survive in a very volatile world.
I was born in 1973, in a small town in Lower Delaware. My parents were teenagers, still in high school. Both came from aggressively abusive homes, and both struggled with knowing how to navigate loving relationships. They split up when I was four and my dad left town for work, leaving us with our mom. She found comfort in a highly abusive relationship. Between the beatings and the torture, we were locked in an attic for most of my kindergarten year. I had a younger brother to protect and three quarters of the way through kindergarten, I found a way to get us help.
My dad came home to raise us full time, but he needed help with childcare if he was going to be a full-time single dad in 1978. So, his younger sister’s boyfriend, John, moved in to help him with us while my father worked. My mom stayed gone for the rest of my life. It was our dad and us from then on out.
From the tail end of five years old to the very beginning of my eighth year, John used my mom’s abandonment against us. He sexually abused my brother and me. He also shared us with different people in our community. I’ve never known if he passed us around for drugs or money, I only know there were several people in our little back woods community who shared in his sexual abuse of us.
He prayed on my loneliness and want for love. He even used my little brother to make sure I did whatever he said. I could take my brother’s turn to protect him. And he kept me from telling anyone by using threats like: If you tell, they might take you away and then who will be here for [your brother]?
After my 8th birthday I told my dad that John had been throwing grown up parties while he was at work. My dad beat him within an inch of his life and John fled our home.
Years later, I was in foster care for other family issues, and I’d written about my previous abuse in a diary. My foster mother read it one night and reported the abuse to her caseworker at CFS.
At that time, everything began to come out. They had me personally call my dad to tell him what happened. He left work and came to sit with me while I was interviewed. It felt like 20 people were at that table, mostly all men, including my dad, as they had me detail that abuse for HOURS. They even tried to arrest my dad for “knowing but failing to act”. It turned out that my dad never understood sex was involved.
At 48 years old– it’s been nearly 40 years since that day– I still ache for what he must’ve gone through when he heard those details. Yet, we were all supposed to go back to life as normal. I don’t know if they offered him counseling but I know I never had direct access to therapy for what I shared with that room.
I was in and out of group homes, foster homes, or care facilities for the rest of my teen years and it took until I was 19 and a teen mom myself before I finally got direct 1:1 counseling for what I’d gone through. I was a mess; I couldn’t function in intimate relationships. I made an immense amount of rash, impulsive, survival decisions for a long time.
At 29 years old I had a complete pelvic organ prolapse and needed a hysterectomy with pelvic repair. I remember meeting the OBGYN who was going to be working with me. When she examined me, she asked, “Who did this to you?” I responded that I couldn’t talk about that and wanted to know what could be done to fix my medical issues. I had never really felt seen or understood for what I’d gone through; I only ever felt like I was supposed to never talk about it again.
She literally held my hand through every step of the process. I had to go through two weeks of testing before surgery to assess the scope of damage. When the doctor took me to someone new, she placed my hand in theirs and she said, “I need you to treat her like she is my sister” and for the very first time in my life, the child in me was seen and cared for, after all of that assault.
To this day, I still have both a bladder and rectal prolapse. I feel I’ve had a lot of health stuff due to the trauma of that time. But I have had many blessings and much healing as well.
I am a mom. I raised three daughters with fierce dedication. Even though the first five years or so was a lot of me learning to be at peace with what I felt I was wired for in my own upbringing.
When I was pregnant with my second child, I needed some extra care due to the cervical cerclage. I needed to keep my pregnancy viable given the amount of cervical damage I had from the abuse. When a local church sent me a nurse to the house while my grandmother stopped by to see me, the nurse remembered her from when we were kids. She was the nurse that I ran to for help when my brother and I needed to be saved from that attic.
She said, “You were the worst case of child abuse I’d ever seen, and I’ve never stopped wondering if you were ok. I’m so happy I lived to see what happened to you.” Sadly, she passed away the next year. But that moment confirmed for me how the trafficking in children has an entry point in some families.
My doctor helped walk me through what those people had done to me. It would take me until I was 40+ years old to realize that we were trafficked. This realization liberated me to start the deeper healing I have needed my whole life. No one had ever addressed the fact that we were SOLD or the damage that was done to my body, spirit, and nervous system.
My father had a very hard time accepting the magnitude of the abuse for most of my life. Parent to parent, I’ve always wanted to protect him from further details, but this past year I was able to gently tell him again: “It was more than you will ever have to hear, but I need you to know it was brutal and it is still affecting my body”. He is now able to quietly hold my truth.
Small towns keep some eerie secrets. If I could give any advice at all about protecting children from these interactions, I’d say to be a safe and sober pair of arms and hands for your children. That way they know how they should be loved, how not to be touched, and the sobriety can give a parent the presence of mind to see their child needs them.
In my case abuse, neglect, addiction and poverty contributed the most to my circumstances.
I never navigated relationships with men well. I thought I wanted to connect with partnerships, but I couldn’t be in those spaces without being overwhelmingly triggered by those years inside the abuse. I was literally losing my sanity trying to and very much harming my partners in the process of a firestorm of trauma I had no idea how to live with.
I am 48 now. I fell in love with a woman who holds deep and gentle space for where I’ve come from, without ever treating me as though I live back there. I am not a trafficked person for her or a sum of my wounds. I am her wife. And my children’s mother. All three of my daughters are grown up now and I feel like I can continue my healing journey, which I suspect will be layers over a lifetime. The more healing I do, the more compassion I have for my younger self. I remain to be very hyper vigilant which is most often expressed through being incredibly community involved. I work hard at connecting resources to needs to help people gain stability. I’ve always felt if my parents had more community support, we might’ve lowered our risk at the outcome we had.
It is believed that our trafficker went on to abuse other children. Even though we knew his full name, the statute of limitations had expired by the time the State felt they had a handle on what he had done. They said he couldn’t be charged. I missed the three-year window. That window has since changed, but it’s still not wide enough.
Parts of me have had some closure due to the witness of kind and compassionate people like the nurse and doctor in my story. There is still an ache inside of me that feels people have yet to see so many versions of my younger self and what she had to do to survive. I look forward to communicating more and more about that to get the well of grief out of my body.
Writing this feels like a start. Thank you so much for the opportunity to feel witnessed.