I live very close to my work, close enough to where I typically walk. It takes me ten minutes and saves gas money so it just made sense to me. My family only gave me one rule – no walking at night. But it wasn’t walking at night that made me nervous. Lots of people choose to view me as an object and treat me as such when I walk. I am hollered at, whistled at, people make comments about me and my body, and they offer me rides. I carry my keys between my fingers so when they get close I can feel safe. I haven’t met my trafficker. Your child may not be as lucky.
Twitter’s screen illuminates on my face as I watch a trailer for the new sugar daddy/baby movie. It’s not the first time I’ve wanted such a relationship. My friends talk about it all the time, there are Twitter threads explaining how to get a sugar daddy, and tons of websites to connect me, a minor, with a sugar daddy. I can specify whether I want a sexual relationship or not, but all I knew was that a lonely man would pay me for my time. Especially in college, sugar daddy relationships are normal. I know lots of camera girls and sugar babies. They all earn what they need this way, to the point where it is glorified in the eyes of my peers. One night, my friend wanted to find her own relationship. She went on one of the many sites, set her age to seventeen, and in minutes was talking to multiple men. This didn’t sit well with me. My hands shook as I watched a fourteen-year-old speak with fifty, sixty-year-old men. Yet, there aren’t just websites for relationships like this. Even though minor escorting is illegal, within fifteen minutes of looking into it I was able to find an escort opportunity for myself. Sick to my stomach, I clicked off the website. Your child might not click out. I didn’t meet my trafficker; your child might not be as lucky.
I don’t intend for these to scare you – I hope that they can instead give you insight into the life of an American teen. I am pretty prude, you can ask my friends. Yet, I still get pressured to drink, vape, smoke weed, cheat, send nudes, and have sex. Strangers tell me to lighten up. They call me sweetie, doll, love. They tell me what’s going on in their lives. They tell me about better places. I kindly decline, but I would’ve said yes if I didn’t know what trafficking was. It’s exciting to talk to new people – to hear about new places, make new friends, talk to friends of friends, to connect. These are all parts of growing up but no one tells you that these are tools utilized by traffickers. My #SnapMap shows exactly where I am, my Instagram is littered with personal stories and photos, my #WhatsApp is open to any messages. #Houseparty lights up every day with recommendations of friends of friends of friends to where I’m #FaceTiming with people I’m not sure anyone knows. . . but it is all normal.