Brenda Myers-Powell is the executive director of The Dreamcatcher Foundation. Below is her first person account of human trafficking:
I was born on Chicago’s West Side and only a few months old when my mother passed. I lived with my grandmother, who was a very hard worker but an alcoholic.
I was molested by the time I was six-years-old. It seemed to happen a lot and at 14 I got pregnant. With low esteem, I found myself looking for love in all the wrong places. I was miserable and looking for someone to make me happy. Before I knew it, I had two kids, no money and faced with the dilemma of feeding my family.
Since I didn’t value myself, I decided to prostitute myself. I sold my body and realized that first night I made more money than I ever had in my life. I was feeding my family and doing things that I needed to do.
One night, a couple of pimps, which I had seen hanging around before, grabbed me from behind and then he hit me in the head with a pistol, and put me in the trunk (it’s called “trunking” in the business).
When we stopped, we were in some field-like area. They said I was under pimp arrest and proceeded to explain what I had to do for them. I was taken to a hotel where they locked me in a closet. A couple of times I tried to get away but, they caught me each time. They tortured me in ways -- I don’t even want to describe. So I gave in and did what they wanted. These pimps had a lot of control over my life. It was extremely horrible. And one day they got another girl the same way they got me.
We would tell ourselves we were going to get out. They had us working truck stops along high ways. Then one day, I managed to get away. A truck driver was willing to take a chance on me and helped me escape. He rescued me.
But what I found out upon my return hurt me. No one had inquired or reported me missing. That hurt more than anything, so I ran away again.
Within a day or two I was with another pimp. Only he was much nicer. He dressed me, fed me, and told me I was beautiful: Things I needed to hear that. But I knew what he wanted me to do.
I stayed with him for about seven years and then moved onto another pimp and another. I spent 25 years in prostitution, was shot five times and was stabbed over 13 times. It all was just a really bad experience.
In 1997 I got out. I was lucky enough to get into Genesis House to recover and get back on my feet. I spent about a year and a half here and that’s the place where I met my mentor. By helping me, she has inspired me to become an advocate and a resource. I need to help these women who are going through the same experience I went through.
Story has been condensed and edited.