Ruby tells Aline she left home as a child to get away from her mother’s abusive boyfriend and started doing sex work.
“Seeing as how I’d already lost my virginity…”
Ruby is one of four women we interviewed who at some point in their past were victims of sexual exploitation or sex trafficking. (In Ruby’s case, she started doing sex work on her own volition, but she was an adolescent. Legally, you can only consent to commercial sex work starting at 18, so Ruby by most definitions would be considered a victim of sexual exploitation.) All four of these former victims of sex trafficking or sexual exploitation currently make a living (and support their families) as sex workers — in Sara’s case, in the very same place she was trafficked seven years earlier.
These testimonies complicate popular ideas of who gets trafficked or sexually exploited, what it’s like, and how we can support people who have gone through an experience like this. In Ruby’s case, she does not want to be “rescued” from the source of income that has sustained her and her children for several decades. But she does wish her work was a little safer.