As told to Yewande Austin
Pretty girl is what they always call me. A badge of honor for most girls on the covers of magazines, but for me it stings, “Pretty girl. Hey, pretty girl. She’s such a pretty girl.” ‘Cause what they don’t know, can’t know, don’t wanna know is that’s what he used to call me when he’d sneak into my room at night. “Shhhhhhhhhhhh….Daddy’s here, pretty girl.”
I’d shiver spontaneously in pain and delight. He wanna play that game with me. Touching, sucking, muffled tears and secrecy. But he said he loved me. Even when it hurt, Daddy said he…loved…me. Momma used to say I was Daddy’s little girl, but I was his woman too. She didn’t love him anymore so what was I supposed to do.
HE SAID HE LOVED ME. So what was I…supposed to DO?
I heard those words so many times when they called my name – in the boy’s bathroom, backs of cars, in the basement as they pulled a chain and Stevie Wonder sang “Overjoyed….I am building a castle of love…”
It didn’t really matter HOW many times they came inside of me as long as they said those three words I longed to hear, “I love you, girl.” Until six STDs, four abortions and those three words made it painfully clear. Love was not to be cherished, but feared.
Hate. Shame. They were weapons of mass destruction and now I had my own, but you never saw me coming, ‘cause now that “pretty little girl” is all grown.
On the stage is where I found my prey and they’d line up day after day. Corporate. Married. Mercedes Benz Class C. You can come inside my playhouse, but this milk ain’t for free.
Soaring. Spinning. High….so recklessly. They don’t wanna know me, wife me or hear my dreams, so I just be what they want me to be. But in VIP? You gotta pay me, ‘cause the touching and sucking is no longer free. A twenty for the pain when you made me bleed. Fifty for the shame of the reflection I see. A hundred for the games we played at night in secrecy.
But this time, I’ve given away the very last piece of me.
Fear had me in chains, but I still know my name. And ever since I let Him back in my life, the game has now changed. No more living in fear or shame. 365 days ago, I had to bury that pain. Six feet under in a box full of hate that kept me from being….well, great.
Now I live free of the burdens and fears, so that others may live without the 1 million, 650 thousand and 29 tears that I once shed, cause that pretty little girl is now dead. Today, a woman stands in her place for every single innocent sweet face that never heard those three words that I longed to hear from someone that cared without imposing fear.
I. Love. You.
This story originally appeared in Facing Sex Trafficking: Atlanta’s Dirty Little Secret, a publication of The Facing Project that was organized by AIB TV in Atlanta, Georgia.