A car was scheduled to drive across the Greek border. (Perhaps to Bulgaria, Macedonia, Albania or further on into Russia, or even back to The States). I’ll never know.
That car was supposed to transport me.
A man was changing a license plate, (his pals claimed that he’d “received too many speeding tickets”), yet somehow, every core of my being knew that didn’t make sense. Not in any way.
I’d answered an ad for a job on the other side of the world, in Athens, Greece.
I was just 28 and to leave the snowy mountains of Vermont for such an experience sounded undeniably exciting!
But, when I got there it didn’t exactly work out. Okay, so that’s a generous term, as it so tragically did not amount to what I’d expected, fantasized of and creatively packed for. Yes my Greek Comedy was converted into a Tragedy and in a matter of seconds.
But I was on the magnificent Mediterranean least we forget! Raise your Ouzo, toast to Mt. Olympus, break plates, melt cheese and learn to cook foods in ways we’ve never dreamed; and then just gallantly dance, love like a Goddess and scream to the lightning bolts and as loud as you’re able, “Opa!”
That colorful notion seemed good in theory.
But, with Bacchanalian food and wine in me, my every pore began to explode in their own hedonistic and happy foodie ways. And I most certainly was not going to turn around and merely “run home” just because some random job in Greece did not work out.
There are ruins to see, there is feta cheese made from goat and sheep’s milk to eat, and there is octopus and history and so much damn culture to live out that can’t be squashed by some haphazard bump or fiasco on my part, having uprooted myself and flown abroad at the drop of this exciting possibility.
Zeus and his omnipotent powers overlooking it all aside, I would not scurry home.
With my pride shot, curiosity spiked and ego determined to “solve” such epic disappointment (and at least meet a sexy and charming “Greek God” while having transported myself way over there and while single); I so vulnerably wore my growing fear upon my sleeve.
This was before the movies Taken or Hostel graced our screens. This was 1998, and I was not only traveling without owning a cell phone, or money, but I hadn’t a “Trustafarian” relationship with my sweet parents or any bank, that I could speed dial and scream to in the name of wiring money or an airline ticket for some help.
Next up, I was telling my newly accrued story of woe to those who approached me in the bar of the hotel that I was in.
It may be no accident that people sought me out. They approached me and they knew my name even.
Perhaps that was all part of the plan. Perhaps it was a small world and shocking—albeit genuine— coincidence.
I’ll never know, thankfully.
Because of this particular journey however, I do know the following:
>> Sex trafficking and sex slavery appears (in foreign lands and in ours as well) in mysterious costumes.
>> Jobs are offered, women are “taken” or snatched when merely scouted at an airport (as we see in the famous Taken movies with Liam Neeson) and often women are used today as recruiters, building the trust in other gals and promising money for somebody to simply use their English skills and/or modeling beauty, or them delivering film or even something far less laden with mystique.
>> Hold your judgment, as our darling “missing girls” come from “good homes” like yours and mine.
Let us take note and spotlight a critical issue that doesn’t have a bias on socioeconomic status or geographical location dictating how it snares. Sex slavery and its diabolical trade does not discriminate about brains but it does find a soft spot for that ever so human quality that a dictionary calls, “vulnerable.”
Even tough chickies, smart cookies, (and yes), your daughter, sister, neighbor, friend or wife can have a moment when she’s exhausted, her guard is down and she’s not acting on her instincts. Take “all that” and drop ship and plunk her into some foreign land with language and cultural differences surrounding her that she does not understand.
No military training or “briefing” about what she might experience is brought her way. No SEAL Team 6 has got her back. Nobody is standing by to hear a report. She’s on her own.
And she’s expecting and seeking, at minimum, a fun vacation.
Yes, even your child or cousin or niece could fall prey to such diabolical fiefdoms and nightmares and if we don’t even digest that, then we are helping the problem and violent occurrence to ship and sail fervently along.
Vital to make clear as well, is the notion that a girl wanting sex, a suntan and some sultry fun in the sun of some foreign port of call, does not equal her desire to be drugged, raped, dragged across some foreign border and sold, never to be heard from again. Wearing sexy clothes, being lonely and/or seeking some paradisiacal pleasure and attention is not synonymous with one wanting to be captured and have their life over. But traffickers don’t care. They smell the money and they seize the opportunity.
When ultimately befriended by “shipping moguls” abroad, I visited their offices, attended the Greek Easter feast at one of their homes, had my parents mail me more belongings that were shipped conveniently to the mens’ offices (hence they got an address they could use as leverage if needed down the road) and I accepted their encouragement to use their cell phones to “call up my family in America and inform them that all was okay.”
They built my trust and I took the bait. Maybe I’ll blame it on that succulent grilled octopus pulled directly from the sea. The palm trees and white stucco architecture right off of an enticing calendar photo? The accents and packs of folk twirling “worry beads” and remarking, “Bravo!” left and right? Let’s face it: bucolic ambiences and charm can do wonders for one’s low self-esteem, young and unseasoned years and wanderlust that’s miles from familiarity and safe turf.
The reason I fell into their snares isn’t what matters most (though it’s bookworthy and so here’s to sharing more of that at another time) but me being spared and my raison d’être (partly comprised of “sex slavery and trafficking” education and awareness) fuels me to so vulnerably come forward and share what I know.
1. I am one of the lucky ones, as, “I’m Still Here.” And thus I have a mission to share that story in the name of preventing others from experiencing what I did—and far worse.
2. The sex trafficking industry today that is worth over 32 billion dollars and takes, sells and ultimately kills human flesh for profit must be slayed.
3. If every person (male or female, old or young) who learns of this atrocity shares it with another person, the conversation and elevated knowledge and subsequent preventative steps begin. Ergo: Talk about it! And be a gentle, supportive and encouraging force in getting victims and survivors of such atrocities to do so too.
4. Police and authorities in many parts of the world are getting “kickbacks” of financial compensation to help these transactions move accordingly and so we must build stronger safety nets for victims of sex trafficking, and via organizations that welcome in survivors and help to reacclimatize them to society, with no judgment or hidden agenda involved.
By the grace of God, I never made it across the border that day, (when I’d be sold and officially indoctrinated into what’s known in that world as, “The Break In Period,” where anywhere from 10 to 30 men, or more, are brought in round the clock to beat, rape and have their way with women and such verbal and emotional abuse comes in tandem as to make certain that these girls know there’s no getting out, that they are useless, and this is their new “normal”).
The men involved each step of the way do get their piece of the girl but only right before she is sold, disease ridden and off to the next covert place. I was no exception and was raped by two men—thankfully not at the same time but instead two days apart—while all things were being orchestrated for that little “drive.”
Because of that, I have an obligation to raise awareness and shine a spotlight on an uncomfortable issue to talk about (for all) albeit an important one as to help spare whomever I can.
Whether one’s brushed up with traffickers or not however, we all have a certain human mission to share what we learn (if we want this beautiful planet to be a better place) and so I encourage people to start the conversation with their kids, siblings, girlfriends, employees and so it goes,
It is because of those coming forward and speaking up that others are made aware. And sometimes, as a result, they too are spared the horrific journey that traffickers and “shippers” of people did have in store for their destiny.
Since every woman we meet is indeed somebody’s daughter, I say, “Let’s do our part!”
For emergency resources, more info and a glimpse into this global atrocity you can visit here.
By speaking about the unspeakable, we stride toward change.
Author: Laurie-Beth Robbins
Editors: Travis May; Renee Picard