It was such an odd situation.
I was on the phone with Annie, who was telling me the good news that another African trafficking victim was ready to leave the street. She will no longer be stuck in a life of prostitution. She will be free.
I had been walking home from outreach when I received Annie’s call, and I stopped walking to listen to what she was saying. I realized when I hung up the phone that I had stopped on a corner where many international trafficking victims are pimped out by their traffickers. On my right were several Central Asian women in evening gowns, and on my left, I heard an Indian woman arguing with a man about the price of her services.
Just then, a man approached me. He asked, “Are you free?”
“No,” I told him, and he walked away. I’m glad he walked away. Some men think “no” means, “keep trying!”
As I continued on my way home, the man’s question echoed in my mind to the rhythm of my footsteps. “Are you free? Are you free? Are you free?”
How ironic, I thought. He was asking if I was available for sex, but his words struck me. He asked me if I was free. I told him I was not available, but, in reality, yes, I am free. I am free to say no to him, to walk away, to leave that little corner of hell-on-earth when I want to. The other women there? If he had asked them, “Are you free?” they would have answered differently about their availability. But, what would their availability reveal about their freedom?
“Are you free?” “Yes.” “How much?” The woman would tell him the price her trafficker has told her to ask, call the trafficker to report she was going with a man, and then follow him back to his hotel room. Whatever would happen behind those doors, only those two people know, but she is certainly not free there. When a man is paying for sex, he feels entitled to his fantasy. Time after time, we hear of men demanding acts the women don’t want to do. Sometimes, after sex, the man sends her out the door without any money. One woman we’re assisting now had her teeth knocked loose when she demanded payment from a man like that. When she leaves his room, she calls her trafficker again before returning to the streets. At the end of a long night, her aching feet carry her back to the room she rents with several other women. Her trafficker stands at the door to collect the night’s money before allowing her to go inside and rest, searching her purse and feeling her body to see if she tried to keep any money back for herself.
“Are you free?” It’s a good question, but I wonder if he really wants to know the answer.
Annie’s blog about outreach earlier that evening.
We are currently trying to assist 13 trafficked women, including the one mentioned above, but we’re short on funds. If you’d like to assist us to care for these women and send them home to their countries of origin, you can give here.
A woman who has exited prostitution blogs about
the myth that there can be good customers buying sex.