Nicole was 17 when she met the man who changed her life. “I met a guy. He put the charms on me, and I fell for it,” she said. Soon, Nicole found herself on the streets of Seattle and Tacoma, earning money for that same man as a sex worker. The once-charming man began taking her to California, Arizona, and Nevada to work the streets. And he began beating her up, sometimes to the point of unconsciousness.
Nicole said, “The left side of my face was broken, and I had to have reconstructive surgery. I had three broken ribs. My wrist and my thumb were broken. I had to have surgery on my wrist and have a screw put in. I probably have more metal than Iron Man.” She now has to wear glasses because a broken eye socket left her with permanent double-vision in her left eye.
Nicole thought of running from her abuser numerous times, but his threats of harming her mother often held her back. “And there were reasons why I believed him. He had this gruesome side to him that you would never see unless you were behind closed doors.” There was also his watchful eye to consider. Nicole’s abuser had “pimp partners,” a network of abusers that acted as his associates, not to mention the girls who worked for them.
Nicole did manage to run from her abuser three different times. “And every time I ran away, I had nothing to run to,” she said. “When I left him, I left with nothing. I left with no house. I had to depend on other people.” Each time she got away, the struggles she faced often seemed insurmountable. She had built up a criminal record while working for her abuser, and it wasn’t easy to explain her past to potential employers. “They have this judgment look on this face like I was this nasty girl they don’t want to hire,” she said.
Out of options, Nicole found herself going back to her abuser time and again. It wasn’t until she landed in the hospital with gruesome bruises from the worst week of her life that she found help. Her doctor contacted the police, and Nicole was soon put in touch with a victim advocate.
With her abuser now behind bars, Nicole is now studying to become a paralegal. She is no longer as afraid of her abuser as she once was. But she is still haunted by vivid memories of her past life. As she focuses on healing, she hopes to help others at least try to understand what life is like for sex-trafficking victims like herself.
“It’s important to me to at least reach out to one (person), if not five, to let them know that it’s not that we chose to commit those crimes because it was the fun and everything. Most of these girls end up in these situations because they have nowhere else to go,” she said. “I have come a long way since then, and I’m still dealing with my trials and tribulations. I’m just trying now to overcome them and let others know the girls aren’t as bad as everyone thinks they are.”
Learn more at Martha Kang’s and Paula Wissel’s KPLU article: Sex-Trafficking Victim: ‘I Had Nothing to Run to’.