Imagine being stolen away from your life. Imagine being forcibly immersed into a life of slavery as a worker in the commercial sex trade. For too many women, right here in the Seattle area, this is happening right now. R.E.S.T. stands for “Real Escape from the Sex Trade.” The vision of REST is to provide pathways to freedom, safety, and hope for victims of sex trafficking and people involved in the sex trade (buyers and sellers.) Since REST began in 2007, their primary aim has been to build relationships with girls and young women who are being trafficked for commercial sex. As trust develops, young women are empowered to ask for help, and receive the resources needed to move out of the sex trade. The following is written by one of REST’s volunteers, who participates in street rescue work.
Julie said she couldn’t believe she was outside, walking free. As soon as the words passed her lips, her eyes scanned the parking lot. He wasn’t there. She said she felt like any minute she’d wake up from a dream and be back in the motel room she shared with her pimp, unable to leave, like she had been for nearly a year.
Instantly, with her face toward the sky, she said, “I love the smell of fresh air.” While she soaked in all of the strange sights and sounds that had eluded her during her imprisonment, my own brain searched to comprehend what it would have been like for her to be held captive in a lightless room for months on end without any means of escape.
She had no phone. He had systematically cut her off from friends, family, and all familiarity. I had no experiential context for her words. Feeling sick from nerves, she went into the gas station bathroom. I could hear her gagging and vomiting inside.
While I waited for her, I thanked God for His work in rescuing “Julie.” For fifteen minutes, Julie hesitated, unable to control her nausea. She eventually felt confident that her stomach was empty and we made our way to the car.
As we drove the many miles toward the safe house, Julie shared more and more of her shocking story, her life before her pimp – as a mother of two children; a college graduate; a successful, intelligent, independent woman. She also shared her hopes for her new life.
As she vacillated between marvel at the beautiful setting sun on Seattle’s skyline and the paralyzing fear of what it meant to be driving away, I listened.
I couldn’t believe this is what I do. And most days, I can’t believe it’s necessary.