In the Know: A Survivor’s Perspective
Low Self-Esteem and Human Trafficking
By Kelley Alsobrook
As far back as I can remember, I always felt that I was “less than.” I remember my dad telling me so many times growing up that I was nothing, and I would never be anything. Whenever I would do something wrong, I would hear, “Why can’t you be more like your sister?” These words played over and over in my head every day for many, many years!
I remember in elementary and middle school wanting to fit in. If I couldn’t get the kids to like me just from my personality I would buy them gifts in order to be liked. I was a “chunky” kid, so I didn’t have many kids that wanted to be my friend; instead I was made fun of. I was also a little withdrawn because of the abuse I was enduring at home, which didn’t make matters any better.
I craved love so much that if someone showed me any kind of attention, I was extremely loyal to him or her. There wasn’t anything I wouldn’t do for them. I wasn’t getting the love I needed from home, so I would look elsewhere to get what I needed. This is why it was so easy for my traffickers to lure me in! They would give me attention, buy me things, pay me compliments, and, even when they would beat me, I would stay because they would say how sorry they were and it wouldn’t happen anymore. And since they “loved” me, I would do anything to keep them and keep them happy, even if that meant selling my body.
I have talked to so many survivors that have felt these same feelings. They didn’t feel like they were “good enough” or “pretty enough” or “smart enough” and, therefore, got sucked in by their traffickers. Traffickers are master manipulators and can spot an “easy target” a mile away. They know just the right words to say to lure their next victim in. They may come off as the sweetest people around, and once they have their “prey” right where they want them … that’s when that ugly side rears its ugly head. The sad part is the trauma bond that gets formed between the victim and the trafficker. It’s a vicious cycle of the trafficker “wooing” the victim and giving her what she needs, then the beatings and fear when expectations aren’t met, control over all she does and, ultimately, she’s miserable and feeling the guilt, shame, anger and self-loathing. The mind control traffickers have over their victims is just a game for them and, in the meantime, they have stripped the victim of everything!!! These effects take years to undo, and, for a lot of us, we continue to deal with the insecurities in some shape or form for a lifetime.
It is so important that we teach our young girls and boys just how special they really are. We need to encourage our youth instead of tearing them down. If we don’t give them the love and encouragement they need, they will find it elsewhere and could find themselves right in the grip of a trafficker.