If you just watch the movies, you think sex trafficking is run by guys with mustaches and mean eyes, who have guns and are obvious.  But it’s not like that.  At least, it wasn’t for me.

Think about a nice neighbor lady, with kids of her own.  Who tells you things like, hey, I’m having a barbecue!  Come over and we can enjoy a nice chat.  I have an extra blouse that I got on sale, would you like it?  What are you doing on Sunday?  Wanna go to a park?

She had kids with different fathers, but so what?  I didn’t disrespect her for that.  I have kids with two and it is not through any fault of my own.  Men are so changeable that you can’t hold on to them.  And some of them are not worth keeping.  Anyway, at the time I got to know this neighbor, my boyfriend had just moved out, and I was struggling.  And she approached me, and she was so friendly!  Always inviting me over.  Always offering me food.

After a few weeks of being friendly, the neighbor lady told me that a man was asking for me.  How strange, I thought.  Who is this man?  Why is he asking for me?  Then she invited me out to dinner and said she would pay, and mentioned it was “with a male friend”.  I said no.  She kept insisting, but it didn’t feel right.  So I didn’t go, and she got strangely mad about it.

Then I got a text, on my phone,  from this man, and he said he wants to meet me.  But why?  Who is he?  What does he want?  I didn’t answer, and when I told her about it, she admitted she had given him my number, because he was asking for me.  She could not really explain why she would give my phone number to a strange man.  But she kept pushing me to meet him.  She even offered to babysit.

Well, it turns out it was for prostitution.  I found out later.  Yes, my neighbor lady was trying to sell me to men.  Can you imagine?  It turns out she got into debt – and couldn’t pay.  And these two men, the loan sharks, they told her – find us some women, and you can pay us back with their labor.  They will work for us and you can have a cut.  So you can pay us back that way.  Find us some immigrants, you know, some refugees.  They keep quiet.

So my neighbor lady, she was looking for women who had kids with more than one man.  She was looking for women who had suffered from domestic violence.  She was looking for women who had been abused as children.  She was looking for women who cannot protect themselves.  Who are lonely.  Who would never dare go to the police.  Who didn’t have brothers or fathers or husbands or boyfriends.  No one to protect them.  No one to help.

And she knows some of what I have been through in my home country.  And she knows I was badly beaten here.  Because she could hear him yelling and throwing things, hear me screaming, through the apartment wall, before I finally got him out.  So she must have thought, easy target.  She must have seen me as a victim.  And that is when she got all friendly.

But guess what?  What doesn’t kills you makes you fatter.  And I am not a skinny little innocent kid anymore.  She was really mad at me, but something wasn’t right.  So I kept telling her no, and I never gave in, thank God.  They never got me alone, and eventually they gave up on me.

Every time I think about it, I thank God that I didn’t fall into her trap, and may God pity those who did.  I was one of the lucky ones.  She was the face of innocence, that neighbor.  She had such kind eyes.  And that is why we say:  Faces are visible- but the soul is invisible.