Two excerpts from Wendy Barnes’ brilliant book “And Life Continues: Sex Trafficking and My Journey to Freedom”, in which she tells the story of how she became a victim of human trafficking, why she was unable to leave the man who enslaved her for fifteen years, and the obstacles she overcame to heal and rebuild her life after she was rescued. […]
When we walked in the door, the hallways were filled with about twenty-five men, all waiting for us to show up. One man took my arm and politely led me to his room where he handed me a twenty-dollar bill. I removed my clothes and lay on his bed with my legs spread open. I turned off the emotions that were trying to escape as tears, and I gently guided Wendy to the safe place within me.
I made the sex noises on cue, knowing it would make him finish faster. Three minutes later, I was putting my clothes back on and walking out of the room to be presented to my next buyer. This was the ritual for the next forty-five minutes; I earned a hundred dollars by having sex with five different men. Even in my safe place, I couldn’t protect myself from the obvious: I was worthless. I felt like shit, and the only cure for this feeling was the crack Greg held in his hand back at the house.
The pattern repeated for several months. On different nights, I would make runs to different apartment complexes, where the Mexican men would wait for our arrival. I no longer had enough dignity to put on my clothes between dates. After the first date, I would lay in the bed naked waiting for the man to get dressed and then tell him as he walked out the door to send in the next one. I would lay there lifeless, except for the few fake sex moans that helped end the night more quickly so I could get home to the drugs that patiently waited to restore me.
No matter how much money we made, it never seemed to be enough. Greg always wanted more—for the drugs he had to feed us to keep us in a zombie state, for the repairs to his three cars, and for his expensive taste in jewelry, stereo systems, and other luxury items.
The violence and interrogations became an every-night event; it was only a question of who was getting it tonight. One evening, as it was my turn to cower in the corner, he stood over me with a forty-ounce Olde English 800 bottle, on the verge of hitting me with it.
“Are you ever going to leave me?” he seethed.
My voice quivered, and it took all my effort to expel the words.
“No, Greg, no. I will never leave you. I promise I will never leave you.”
I cringed, waiting for the pain from the bottle smashing against my head. With each contention, the evil and the rage escalated.
“I think you’re gonna leave me. I think you’re sick of me, aren’t you? You had better never leave me, bitch.”
How could I reassure him so he wouldn’t hit me with the bottle?
“I promise, I promise I won’t leave you. I love you too much to leave you.”
It wasn’t enough. Greg wanted a different promise. He grabbed the Bible from its hiding place in the closet. The Bible had one purpose in our lives and only one purpose. Greg got down on his knees and presented the Bible to me. He put his face right in front of mine, intoning in a deep, gruff voice.
“Make the promise.”
I laid my hand on the Bible. I spoke the words that would keep me trapped in this hell but would make the torture stop for the night.
“Greg, I promise you… I swear on my son’s life, may he die if I ever leave you.”
He looked at me as if I were lying.
“May he die a horrible, painful death if you ever leave me.”
With my hand still placed on the cover of the Bible that Greg clutched in his hand, I heaved the dreaded words.
“If I should ever leave you, may my son, Gregory, die a horrible, painful death.”
The torture inquisitions by Greg became more frequent and longer lasting. Sometimes they would last for weeks. On Greg’s orders, the routine was always the same. Whenever we were ready to go home after working the street or making our rounds to our regular clientele, we stopped at a pay phone to call him. He always wanted to know where we were so phone calls home were a constant for us. Most times he would instruct us to go buy drugs. If none of his regular drug dealers had stock, we had to drive to the hood and buy the drugs on the street. After we obtained the drugs, we would call him again to let him know we were on our way home.
When we would get home, he would always be lying on the bed in the room upstairs. All of us girls would march up the stairs into the room, where each of us would hand him the money we had made and the drugs we had purchased. We would all take a seat on the floor and wait for him to split up the crack and hand us our portions. After the crack pipe was passed around, he would count the money and start to ask questions. On this particular night, I was his target.
“Wendy, how many dates did you do tonight?”
I was barely able to talk because my mouth wouldn’t move after taking a hit of cocaine. I tried my best to respond with stuttering words.
He took another hit from the crack pipe and looked at me in disbelief.
“How much did you make off each one?”
All the girls began to stew, waiting for what was to come next. They looked at me with compassion, but I also knew they were relieved. I didn’t blame them for being thankful that it was I and not they who was tonight’s target, as I knew the feeling well. I, too, had many times experienced that momentary sense of deliverance at the expense of another girl. Still stammering, I tried to respond.
“I made…forty dollars off the first… g..g..guy, thirty dollars on the s…s…second guy, a-a-and the last two…two were thirty-five dollars a p-p-piece.”
“Did you fuck them or suck their dicks?”
I hated that question. I hated having to describe what I did to make the money.
“I fucked…three of them…the thirty dollars… was for a….b-b-blow-job.”
“Did you use a condom?”
I knew well enough to conceal my discomfort.
“Of course they used condoms.”
By now the crack hit was wearing off, and he knew this because my stuttering had stopped. He handed me the crack pipe, a hit already melted and ready for me. I put the fire to the end of the pipe and inhaled the potion—the only comfort that would help me get through this night.
“How do you know they didn’t take the condom off while they were fucking you?” The hint of sarcasm further poisoned his sinister voice.
My heart started to pound with the realization that he could continue this line of questioning throughout the night. I knew what he wanted and that was “solid proof” that the men had worn a condom. Trying not to allow him to hear the fear in my voice, I spoke as sternly as I could through the stuttering.
“I…I…I… know…if…some…someone takes…the c-c-condom…off. I would…know…and they d‑d‑didn’t…t‑t‑take it…off.”
I could see he was thinking really hard about my answer, wondering how I would know if a trick slipped a condom off while having sex. He asked a few more questions, and each time I had an answer, he became angrier. He got off the bed and started walking toward me. My heart started to pound and I wanted to cry—but I didn’t dare cry. Crying always infuriated Greg.
In a deep voice, his evil eyes glaring right at me, he hurled his accusation. “I don’t think you’re using condoms when you’re out there. I think you’re lying to me.” He stood over me like a gigantic monster. “Prove it.”
“Prove what?” I was genuinely confused by his demand.
“Prove to me he wore a condom.”
“How do I do that?”
Miranda jumped between us, hoping to deter what was about to happen.
“Greg, Wendy is the most perfect of all of us. What would make you think in a million years that she would do dates without a condom?”
Greg gave Miranda a cold stare, slowly walked over to the closet where he hid his gun. The gun rarely came out, but we all knew that it was there and feared it. Greg stared at the ground while his hand reached up to the top of the closet. We girls knew the gun was coming out tonight, and our hearts dropped as we watched him retrieve the gun and hold it lovingly in his hand. He stood there like a king with all the power of the world.
Suddenly he lunged towards Miranda and grabbed her like she was a puppet doll. He threw her onto the bed and jumped on top of her, shoving the gun into her mouth.
“Bitch!!!! Do you have something to say to me?”
The cold barrel of the gun prevented Miranda from talking. None of us could understand her muffled pleas, but we could imagine what she was trying to say. We sat frozen in terror, crying softly. Our tears only increased Greg’s rage. He jumped off of Miranda, threw her back onto the floor, and snarled at me.
“Let me see your pussy.”
I looked at the girls who were watching in horror. Almost in unison, they looked to the floor to let me know they would not watch what was about to happen.
“Get on the bed,” his voice roared.
I got off the floor and walked to the bed where I took off my jeans and panties. I sat back on the bed and opened my legs so he could look and feel inside me to determine for himself if there was another man’s semen inside of me. By this time I had by-passed humiliation and went straight to hatred for him and for myself for coming back to this nightmare. As his fingers dug inside of me, tears started streaming down the sides of my face and onto the bed. I looked at the ceiling in front of me and tried my hardest to pull myself to the safe place within the pit of my stomach.
There was no hiding place any more, and there was nothing of me left to hide—nothing left that was ever truly me. What I was, what I had become, what Greg had turned me into was all that remained of the once dream-filled girl who had fallen in love with her Prince Charming: a ho with no self-respect, no dignity, and no rights as a human being. I was Greg’s slave. No fragment of the human being I had been had survived through all these years. The Wendy I had known as a child and even into my early twenties was gone forever.
First published: 21 September 2016.
Wendy’s book, “And Life Continues: Sex Trafficking and My Journey to Freedom” is available from Amazon.
Follow Wendy on Twitter: @WendyBarnes6
You can see more of Suzzan Blac’s powerful artwork on her website.
Follow Suzzan on Twitter: @SuzzanBlac