You are threatened and you are a threat

Danielle JordanBy Danielle Jordan |

Telisia Espinosa, at 10 years old, had been sexually abused by three men.

In February I heard her story on Jacksonville’s WJCT News: How by 12 she was sexually active and under the control of a pimp who sold her for sex and money in the not very distant town of Miami, Fla. In the arms of a man she thought she loved, she was sold and sexually abused by rapists and pedophiles daily. She was enslaved and shamed through abuse, through fear and through manipulation.

Four years old. This is how old Espinosa was the first time she was sexually abused.

In her own words, she grew up empty, visionless, depressed and broken. So she ran to stripping, in her teens, to use her body for the only thing she believed it to be good for: sex and pleasure.

Through the doors of the strip club, she saw a man who gave her attention, gained her trust, and made her feel love — completely unrequited — a man who brainwashed her into sex trafficking, bound and chained to a toxic relationship and a brainwashing mind game.

This is the reality of sex trafficking in America. Women, men and children are sold by families and loved ones daily. Human beings are kidnapped and forced into slavery to pay off debts they never rightfully obtained, and to perform sexual acts they never chose.

According to World Relief Jacksonville, on average 17,500 women and children are trafficked across borders into the United States. Most, if not all of these people are unaware of the risk they are about to encounter when approaching the “land of the free and the home of the brave.”

We see sex trafficking happen all the time in third world countries. But foreign statistics never hit home for Americans protected by their middle and upper class statuses and full time jobs. Slavery is, for us, either an intangible threat that only affects the extremely less fortunate, or a distant memory that was abolished with Abraham Lincoln’s 13th Amendment in in 1863.

These are lies.

Lies we read, choose to believe, and feed ourselves to ease our raging cultural awareness. We allow ignorance to control what we see and understand, and willfully choose to be blind to the facts: that four year old girls like Telisia are preyed upon.

>>>Attribution>>>>But the facts don’t lie: annually, the revenues of the sex trafficking industry are estimated to reach $7 billion, according to the group End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography And Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes. This is money sprouting from sexual exploitation, rape, abuse, brainwashing and manipulation of children, as well as women and men. And this absolute negligence of basic human rights is not solely an international issue.

Sex trafficking is happening all around you.

Potentially down the hall from you a girl is being abused on a daily basis by her “boyfriend” who bought her for sex and power. Maybe your next door neighbor recently received a girl from Mexico who is willing to help with domestic tasks, and, in actuality, this girl is a sex slave for a perverted man who seems so suburban in every way.

Or perhaps you, like so many Americans, watched the Super Bowl with excitement and charisma but will now be made brutally aware that over 50 women, including 16 minors, were rescued from sexual exploitation at Super Bowl events.

Sex trafficking does not only happen outside of American borders.

Sexual slavery is here in Miami, in Jacksonville; it is in all corners of the U.S. Sex trafficking is happening now around the corner, down the street, in unassuming shops and businesses. The only way we can fight these predators and protect these victims is to open our eyes. Once you know, you are responsible. The world is a terrifying place with faceless, bodiless menaces behind cracked doors and beautifully kept neighborhoods.

Telisia Espinosa was shackled to her pimp — her boyfriend — with fear. She did not believe she could walk away and live. But she did, and that same day her pimp found two young women to take her place as sex slaves. Women, like Telisia, who have been victimized, abused, and emotionally shattered, now raise their voices to share their stories of looming defeat, and indescribable victory through their courage and intervention.

Sexual trafficking means to unrightfully steal one of an individual’s basic human rights: the right to a healthy, happy, unthreatened life. Therefore, raising awareness and our voices is critical to heightening knowledge of sex trafficking in America, just like Telisia Espinosa courageously did (and does to this day at conferences and events.)

Sex trafficking is encouraged by our ignorance, and can never be defeated until we follow in Telisia’s footsteps and shed light on injustice.

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