Josie’s Story: I Survived Sex Trafficking

By Kendra Holliday | August 9, 2011

There are many women like me
out there

Ed Note: Remember this sensational Newsweek article about johns being horrible people? I sneered at it, but my friend Josie thought it was pretty spot on. That’s because she has the horrific perspective of being trafficked for six years – she was bought, sold, and traded for drugs. I asked her to share her story with us. Here it is.

Josie’s Story

I don’t blame anyone for what happened to me.

If anything, it was a complete lack of knowledge that is to blame. I grew up in a very sheltered environment; I was homeschooled from third grade through high school. My sex ed was basically “Insert Tab A into Slot B; babies will occur. Don’t do it before you’re married.”

And that was it.

I knew my parents loved me, but they were never overly physically affectionate. So when I was offered both a job and physical affection and attention at age 19, I jumped all over it. I craved it.

I was willing to do just about anything for a cuddle, a kiss, a few minutes of being petted. I didn’t know, didn’t realize until it was too late, the danger I was in. One thing led to another, one stupid decision was followed by an uneducated choice, and the next thing I knew, I was a sex slave.

I initially got involved with my pimp as a normal dating relationship. We met at a club and hit it off. When he asked me to “run a few errands” here and there, I didn’t mind. Plus, he was always grateful and cuddly when I returned. He acted like I was his girlfriend, buying me little presents at first and taking me out to dinner or a movie. I knew he had a couple of other “girlfriends,” but he kept us pretty well separated from each other, and even at that point I was perfectly fine with my honey having other ladies of his own.

“Carry a package” favors turned into “Go fuck this guy”. Eager to please an older male who was giving me the attention I so desired, I did what he said. But when I tried to say “no”, albeit on very rare occasions, I would get the living daylights smacked out of me.  It just went downhill from there, until it didn’t matter whether I said yes or no anymore.

Barely a single day would go by where I didn’t have the snot beaten out of me. Constant johns, who saw the bruises, figured they could get away with the same. And I was being used as a drug mule. My first girlfriend, the woman who captured my heart, died in my arms after taking a bullet meant for me the night a drug deal went bad.

I was stabbed… shot… strangled… and technically died at least once by being drowned. I tried to run… and my pimp would  come find me. Then, he would beat me until I couldn’t move, and turn me over to the most vicious, violent johns he could find until he figured I was broken again… and the cycle would continue.

I had no way of contacting anyone outside, not my parents, not the few friends I’d made before I got caught up in this, no one. My every move was watched, every conversation listened to, and any attempt at rebellion immediately and severely punished.

A Glimmer of Hope

Out on a job one night, walking to the motel room, a man bumped into me, and I felt something slip into my pocket. I just kept walking, did what I needed to do, then escaped into the room’s bathroom “to use the facilities” and get dressed. A small note, maybe an eighth of the size of an index card, and on it in tiny letters:

a way out.

All I had to do was stand on a certain corner to meet a john on a certain date, and everything else would be taken care of. I tore the little piece of paper up as thoroughly and quickly as I could and flushed it. Miracles still existed… or if they didn’t, what was one more night of violence, one more week of torture, one more month of hell. It was all the same to me anymore.

On the given night, I was on that corner at the time mentioned. And I waited. Hours, it seemed. It was a summer night, clear skies and warm; the air smelled like fresh cut grass, car exhaust, and hot asphalt. There were cars passing by, a light breeze, the normal sounds of a small city. I was horribly nervous.

I was hoping my pimp didn’t come looking for me, hoping none of the johns I’d been with saw me, second-guessing myself, scared of the unknown stretching out before me, happy that if this guy showed up I’d be free of my pimp no matter what happened afterwards… so many conflicting emotions jumbling around.

A car pulled up. A man built like the proverbial brick shit house stepped out of the car. He opened the passenger door and gestured for me to get in. This wasn’t a john… johns either arranged everything ahead of schedule with my pimp, or negotiated prices beforehand.

I got in.

I DIDN’T decide to trust him. I figured in this case, the devil I knew was pretty damn bad, how much worse could the devil I didn’t know be? Anything to get away from my pimp, I didn’t care.

I never looked back. I was free…he was a friend of a friend, someone who’d gone looking for me, found me, and arranged for a group of current and ex-military and para-military friends and acquaintances, anyone who was willing, to get me out, hide me, keep me moving, until I couldn’t be found.

I eventually married, for convenience rather than love, and had a child. When my husband turned violent, I didn’t stick around; I left, flying from Hawaii to Georgia, to meet a man I only knew through a year-long online interaction. Thankfully, he was everything he presented himself to be – kind, understanding, forgiving, happy and willing to help me work through my issues and move forward.

My issues include Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and split personality; I’m agoraphobic (fear of being in crowds) and hyper-reactive to any perceived threats. I’ve also developed a terrifying stress-related seizure disorder.

My story is exactly why I refuse to shelter my own child, who is now three years old. Certainly, I will protect her, and I won’t expose her to anything that isn’t age appropriate. But she will be raised in a sex-positive environment, and she will be raised to know that NO means ABSOLUTELY NO, and that if a partner doesn’t respect that, she has every right to leave, to come find me, and that I will do whatever it takes to make sure that she is safe and protected.

I encourage my friends now who have kids to do the same. Don’t hide sex from them… don’t be stingy with your affections… and for the love of whatever deities may or may not exist, please, warn them of what’s out there, the kind of people who might take advantage of their innocence. Arm them with knowledge, and with the understanding that you will ALWAYS be there for them, no matter what.


Hypocrite 2011-08-09 13:51:14

I think you’ve done a great job both description both what you did wrong and how others wronged you. Your closing paragraph is something that all parents should take to heart.

Additionally, you have also shown (much like the Newsweek article), that there is a significant difference in the lives of sex workers (those that voluntarily entered the trade) and sex slaves (those that were forced with physical/emotional violence and/or drugs).

Though I will say that the difference between “clients” and “johns” should be noted, where the former are those that are looking to fill some sort of void in their lives (bad sex life, lonely, thrill of the score, whatever), while the latter are those that are basically sexual predators, looking to take advantage of women (“oh she’s strung out on smack, I’ll be able to fuck her and rip her off as well!”)


    Kendra 2011-08-10 05:59:59

    I was seriously impressed by the first line in her story: “I don’t blame anyone for what happened to me.” and then she set out to tell the truth so that others can learn and avoid making similar mistakes.


    Josie 2011-08-10 08:36:31

    Thank you for pointing out the difference between “clients” and “johns”; I do believe you hit the nail on the head. However, regardless of motivation, that difference has little bearing to those of us who have been on the receiving end of violence and objectification (in the non-consensual sense, for you BDSM aficionados out there!). I cannot sit back and tell you, “Well, this man was a client, because he had this motivation, but that one was a john, because he did this.” To me, it was all the same.


      Hypocrite 2011-08-10 14:58:12

      I absolutely agree, that in your situation, it didn’t matter. You were always a victim, unlike those that enter the sex trade voluntarily.


Nora 2011-08-09 17:07:15

What an incredible story. I am so happy you got out of it alive and have found happiness with someone, albeit with very understandable issues.

“Arm them with knowledge, and with the understanding that you will ALWAYS be there for them, no matter what.”

Not being a parent myself, I’m not sure if parents realize how important that is. I wish my parents, your parents, all of them out there could have heard these words.


    Kendra 2011-08-10 06:03:33

    Unconditional love is critical. Kids need to know their parents will be there for them if something goes down.


    Josie 2011-08-10 08:40:04

    Thank you, Nora! I must say, I’m very relieved to have gotten out alive, and to have eventually found the wonderful man with whom I am now partnered. I know that many parents understand the need to make sure their child(ren) are loved unconditionally; unfortunately, it can be difficult to explain to children that, while you may hate their behavior or their choices, you still love THEM, no matter what else is going on. Kids (specifically, me) don’t always seem to understand that vital difference between choices/behavior and self; that comes with maturity and life experience.


ColinSTL 2011-08-09 21:57:53

I’m with Nora–what an incredible story. And scary as hell too. For the pimp who abused you Josie, Karma’s gonna catch up with him sooner or later, no doubt in my mind about it. Thanks for sharing your story, and thanks Kendra for encouraging her to share it. Wishing you absolutely nothing but the best! 🙂


    Josie 2011-08-10 08:43:06

    I can assure you, Colin, now that I look back at what I’ve been through, it scares the pants off me that it happened, that other women go through it, and that it could potentially happen to my daughter no matter how well I educate her and how many precautions I take! As for karma, she may be a bitch… but she always assures that the scales will be leveled in time. My pimp will, sooner or later, get all the joy and blessings he deserves. I’m glad Kendra gave me the chance to share my story with all of you; in a sense, it was quite liberating to be able to do so. 🙂


      ColinSTL 2011-08-10 22:50:36

      I hear you there Josie. I’m really glad for you that you’ve been able to overcome everything and that you’ll always be there for your daughter, no matter what. I don’t have any of my own yet, but I agree they need to know that we’ll be there for them and love them unconditionally. Thanks so much for your warm response Josie–I’m sending you and your daughter warm and kind thoughts! 🙂 And wishing you both the best!


morpheus316 2011-08-10 00:59:40

Josie, you sound like an incredibly strong person and to my mind you definitely had to be to survive an ordeal like that. I definitely agree that sex should not be as hidden or taboo is it currently is. I also sympathize because my own sex ed was similar to what you describe — and I was not as sheltered either — so I had to learn it on my own. I don’t want my boy to turn into a john or get preyed on either so that’s why I’m resolved to do my best to overcome my own squeamishness about addressing sex around family members so he can get the resources he needs to understand being sex positive from the male perspective — something we don’t have a ton of resources on.


    Kendra 2011-08-10 06:13:24

    Very true. I have no idea what it’s like to raise a son. I’m glad for things like Good Men Project. So many men don’t get to fully mature in our society, which stunts their ability to be compassionate.


    Josie 2011-08-10 08:48:07

    Morpheus, thank you for your kind words. I wish you the absolute best of luck in raising your son to be an amazing young gentleman. And, if I may suggest a way to overcome your squeamishness? I had the same issue in handling sex with my daughter. Still do. Definitely will down the road. But, the method that works for me is just… being human. Walking around the house naked (when we don’t have company, obviously! LOL) and just answering her questions when they come up. Letting her see my partner naked in a very neutral setting, such as when he gets out of the shower, and answering her questions. That’s about the most I can do for now, since she is only three, but I plan to take the same approach when she gets older and the questions become more complicated. Honesty, honesty, honesty, and it’s okay to constantly remind yourself that your parents aren’t standing over your shoulder frowning because you used the word “testicles” in mixed company! Hope that helps; of course, feel free to ignore me too, I can only share what works for me, and it may not work at all for you!:smile:


Stephen 2011-08-10 01:44:44

Semantically you were pimped out, not an actual victim of sex trafficking, where the connotation is the kidnapping and consistent abuse and trade of underagers – often moved from place to place.

Your story is pretty common and I hope you find group therapy. I can’t tell you how many women, young men and transexuals have been taken advantage of in this exact same way. Rape, beatings, scare tactics and slices of comfort and “love” just like kids received when they were young at home.

Pimps can spot girls like you 14 miles away. From there I think they enjoy the conquest, the predatory aspect of winning over the person carefully before turning them out. After all, if he’d had beaten you too soon, you’d have left. If he’d beaten you too much, you’d be worthless to him. It’s a carefully practiced art and science, being a successful pimp – and they have it down better than any Nazi scientist ever did.

You’re a victim of both your childhood and the pimp system. I hope you get professional help, as your child needs you to do so. You can’t afford not to do it – the PTSD of being pimped out, the agoraphobia…those are all symptoms of the after-effects of what led you to this man and lifestyle in the first place – a very upsetting and painful journey to be sure.

Please. Get professional help and stick with it, even if it takes 10-15 years. Start small tho, tiny steps for tiny feet.

Good luck.


    Kendra 2011-08-10 05:58:18

    You are seriously arguing semantics with this woman? THAT’S the first thought you wanted to share? I asked her to sum up six years of horrendous abuse and suffering in 1000 words, and –
    never mind.


      2bit 2011-08-10 07:59:31

      In Stephen’s defense:

      If the goal of this article was merely to be a sensational piece, then yes, semantics are not important and are inappropriate to mention. But, this article was written under the guise of educating the reader. It is vital when taught that the pupil is taught right. Semantics are very important in an education; otherwise you might have a group of readers who take your teachings at face value and look like idiots when they describe ‘ being pimped out’ as ‘sex trafficking’.


        Hypocrite 2011-08-10 08:59:50

        Per the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children:

        “‘Trafficking in persons'” shall mean the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs… The consent of a victim of trafficking in persons to the intended exploitation set forth [above] shall be irrelevant where any of the means set forth [above] have been used.”

        (quote taken from Wikipedia)

        So, there’s no requirement for transnational boundaries to be crossed.

        Regardless, in the most simple terms, if she went from location 1 to location 2 (movement), that’s trafficking.


          2bit 2011-08-10 15:59:04

          Semantically, Stephan and I were wrong. We, and other readers like us, now have the opportunity to correct our thought pattern, and I will.

          See, educational. 😉

      Josie 2011-08-10 08:32:45

      No, Kendra, it’s okay. He does have a point… sex trafficking DOES have connotations of kidnapped minors. However, I would respectfully point out that “connotations” and “semantics” should not be used interchangeably. Wikipedia defines “sex trafficking” as “… the organized coercion of unwilling people into different sexual practices”, and points out that the phrase (emphasis mine) “INCLUDES the exploitation of anyone under 18 involved in commercial sex.” However, I would be interested to know exactly what Stephen would call what happened to me?

      Stephen, to respond to you directly: Thank you for your comment and desire to keep things accurate, especially when one is attempting to educate others. I appreciate your concern and assure you that I have been receiving professional help in dealing with my psychological issues since I have been away from my ex-husband. However, I would very politely request that you not attempt to tell a mother what is best for her child unless she is acting in a way that is directly harmful for that child. I am a damn good mother, and I have the happy, intelligent, playful, outgoing, turbocharged toddler to show for it! Being a single mother (and let’s face it, that’s what I’m doing, regardless of a male role model presence in her life) is difficult enough without feeling as though one’s parenting is being judged by the uninformed public. Again, though, I thank you for your concern. 🙂


        2bit 2011-08-10 16:25:26


        I am glad that you were able to make it out of what sounds like not one but two very difficult situations in what seems like one piece. Too many don’t make it out of either

        As for your parenting skills, don’t worry about an uninformed public judging you. It is inevitable; but, you don’t need anybody’s approval to be the excellent parent I
        am sure you are.


AngelofHarlots 2011-08-12 19:03:48

Josie, I just want to say how amazing I think you are to not only be able to share this, but to share it so well. It was both painful and beautiful to read.

Stay strong. And I agree with others; get thee to a therapist, or a support group, or something. I really think it can help. There are often many options in large cities, if you are near one.

Lots of love to you.


Colin Sphincter 2011-08-17 12:59:35

Giving your kids love, sex education, or kung fu lessons is not enough. We must teach boys to respect women and women to respect themselves. Free will is sacred but the choices we make have consequences. Do not depend on someone saving you. You are your own liberator.:embarrassed:


    morpheus316 2011-08-17 23:51:24

    Actually in my experience it’s mutual respect we need to teach. This could be jaded from my side because where I was raised, teaching boys to respect girls and girls to respect themselves was taken to the extreme into what I call femenazism — a far cry from what is being advocated here. Both sexes need to be taught to respect the opposite as well as themselves.


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