NOTE: This survivor’s story is featured in a 2011 TBI research study, detailing the nature of human trafficking in Tennessee. The stories are frank and may feature descriptions and language some may find offensive. Still, they’re included in the research studies to describe scenarios occurring across our state. Read more about this research project online: http://tn.gov/assets/entities/tbi/attachments/2011%20Tennessee%20Human%20Sex%20Trafficking%20and%20its%20Impact%20on%20Children%20and%20Youth.pdf.
Carrie was born one of eight siblings to a single mother in a county in southern Middle Tennessee. Her name and exact hometown have been obscured to protect her privacy. Carrie told her story brokenly and with frequent tears, even though her life and story began decades ago.
Carrie’s mother was an alcoholic and very violent. Carrie described severe physical, mental and emotional abuse at the hands of her mother beginning at the age of four. All of her siblings had different fathers, so some were treated better than others. Carrie described her younger siblings getting new shoes every few months, but she did not. Her father was absent and she said her mother hated her grandmother, and she (Carrie) looked just like her. She blamed the absence of her father and her resemblance to her grandmother for the abuse. She was reluctant to blame her mother; instead, she blamed circumstances and the disease of alcoholism.
Carrie said one night when she was thirteen years old, her mother beat her severely and came after her with a butcher knife, cutting her on the arm. She left that night with a girlfriend and they “hitched” a ride with a truck driver to Nashville. Carrie said she and her girlfriend stayed in a house in North Nashville with a number of men and her first sexual experiences were in that house. When asked to describe this, she replied, “…they pulled trains on us.” It was what was expected for her room and board. Carrie said her girlfriend didn’t stay long, calling her family to come get her. Carrie stayed for more than a week before calling her brother to come and get her.
When Carrie got home, her mother beat her so badly, that she, “almost killed me.” Carrie immediately left again and hitched her way back to Nashville. She said the men in that house where she had been were tired of her, so she had to move on. Carrie said she went to the sister of a friend, where she stayed for several weeks. She went to nightclubs around Jo Johnston Avenue (North Nashville) at night and met a man named Johnny, with whom she would start a relationship.
Carrie said Johnny would take her out and very quickly moved them into a motel room, where she lived with him for a few weeks. She said he would buy her things, gave her alcohol, marijuana, and attention. She thought he loved her and she loved him. Carrie said this man was in his mid-20’s at the time. Carrie described a night where a woman came to the motel room door and told her that Johnny had been robbed and shot and she needed to come to the hospital. Carrie said that after he got out of the hospital, she, Johnny, and two other women left Nashville and drove to Washington D.C. It was there that Johnny told her that she would be expected to “work” for money to support him.
Carrie was required to make a minimum of $75 per day. She said she started on the corner of 14th street in D.C. Her first “trick” came at the hands of a woman. Carrie said an older woman approached her on the street and negotiated sex with a man for $40. She said the older woman took her to a residence where she was forced to have sex with both the woman and her husband. She said she was raped, “over and over and over” again for three days. Carrie said after three days, they gave her back her clothes and the woman took her and put her on a corner and told her that she worked for them now.
Carrie said that the woman negotiated a “trick” for her but insisted on accompanying her on the “date.” The “John” refused to allow the older woman to come. He turned out to be the police. Carrie said God was looking out for her that night. She said she was arrested and that Johnny came and picked her up. Carrie said the experience scared her so badly; she refused to go back to the street for a period of time. Johnny then introduced her to more hard core drugs, heroin, cocaine and others. Carrie said she could not tolerate the heroin, it just put her to sleep, and then she could not work. She said that she was probably too young for a drug like heroin. She was fourteen years old.
Carrie said she used drugs to medicate herself; she described being very afraid all the time. Johnny also became violent during this period. Carrie said he usually would heat metal hangers and burn her on the back with them. If a woman was lying on her back, you wouldn’t see the burns. They moved from D.C. to Norfolk Virginia, where she was expected to produce $200 per day. She said they also worked in Rhode Island, New York, Dallas, Fort Worth, Arlington and other cities and states. Carrie described moving to another pimp once, but Johnny paid to get her back and then he beat her with butt of a shotgun and cracked her pelvis.
Carrie said sometimes she would get into a car or truck and she would cry to the John, tell them how young she was and that she didn’t want to do this. She said some would give her $20 and let her go. She said that there were two kinds: “flat backin’ hoes” and “thievin’ hoes.” She said one of the other women taught her how to be a “thievin’ hoe” by stealing or robbing her tricks. She said “thievin’” got her shot in the leg and thrown off of a bridge, but she survived.
By sixteen, she had her first child by Johnny. She left the child with family and went back on the road with him. By seventeen, she was so addicted to drugs that she said, “The dope man got all my money.” Carrie said by the age of eighteen, she was back in Nashville with no pimp and working on her own. She mostly worked the Dickerson Road and Trinity Lane area and gave all her money to drug dealers for cocaine and crack cocaine.
Carrie wanted people to know that she was raped dozens of times by police officers who would demand sex in exchange for not going to jail. Carrie said this happened in multiple cities during her years working the streets. She said she was as afraid of them as anybody else. Carrie said that many nights, she would have preferred to go to jail, she described being so tired. It was clear that despair was a frequent companion. It was also clear that Carrie received few if any offers for help along the way. She said, “Who wants to have sex with 15 or 20 men a day? It was a living fucking hell.”
The good news is Carrie found her way to Magdalene, a facility for women operated by women in Nashville. Carrie credits the help she got there with saving her life and changing her destiny. Carrie said when she started treatment for the last time, she was so angry. Carrie said she does not know how those women put up with her. She said they just kept hugging her and patting her back and they just nodded when she lashed out. “My destiny now is to have a positive life.” Despite several starts and stops, Carrie graduated from the two-year program two years ago. She said the more she talks about it, the more it loses its power over her and she hopes it helps somebody. When asked how and why, she said, “I just wanted any kind of attention… anywhere.”