When I ask people what sex trafficking means to them, I get so many answers, but most of them paint a picture of girls being kidnapped and swept across country lines to be sold into some third world brothel. As a matter of fact, more than half of the people asked used the word ‘kidnapped’ in their response.
Sex trafficking or human trafficking, by definition is:
THE RECRUITMENT, HARBORING, TRANSPORTATION, PROVISION, OR OBTAINING OF A PERSON FOR THE PURPOSE OF A COMMERCIAL SEX ACT WHERE SUCH AN ACT IS INDUCED BY FORCE, FRAUD, OR COERCION, OR IN WHICH THE PERSON INDUCED TO PERFORM SUCH ACT HAS NOT ATTAINED 18 YEARS OF AGE.
In the early 80’s there was a young girl named Jessica. She had been molested by neighbors most of her very young life and had no idea it was not okay. Her family moved to Joseph, Oregon in the late 80’s where her father was murdered by a family acquaintance, and at the same time, she was learning that her peers hadn't been exposed to sex in the way she had.
When Jessica turned 13, her mother remarried and the traumas in her life spiraled her out of control. She found herself using drugs and drinking, even miscarrying a child.
At 16, she was sent to a Portland GED program and began to work in a restaurant where a 43-year-old man lavished her with attention.
“I had never felt so special and loved,” Jessica explained, “I remember him asking me, ‘If you’re already having sex, why wouldn't you want to get paid for it?’”
She was lavished right into sex trafficking. Her boyfriend, who she later realized was her pimp, promised a whole new life, even giving her a new name: Joanna. He showered her with gifts, cell phones, manicures, and she truly believed that she was better off with him.
In 1997, a group of prostitutes in Vancouver, B.C, beat her until she was unrecognizable. She barely escaped with her life and fled to a Seattle escort service, but the job was wearing on her. She would take money, promise sex acts, and flee, often forcing her to escape a very violent and angry customer.
A couple of years later, she became pregnant. She decided to leave the life of sex trafficking and returned home with her mom in Idaho to deliver her baby girl. It was there that she became a Christian and met her current husband, Reid Richardson. Since, they have had four more children and now reside in California.
Through Christ and the loving support of her husband and family, Jessica has reclaimed her identity and has dedicated her life to change. She has turned her darkness and trauma into something beautiful and filled with light. Her trainings have been translated into several languages and have circled the globe. She works with the FBI and sits on legislative panels, as well as speaks to churches and organizations. She has spoken at Yale, Portland State University, University of Oregon, and Concordia University just to name a few.
I have read testimony after testimony from women whose lives have been epically changed by Jessica. For every terrible moment she experienced in the hell of sex trafficking, she has created a beautiful one for another woman. Jessica Richardson is truly a Wonder Woman and receives our Wonder Woman Wednesday spotlight for not letting her life overcome her. Instead, she has overcome her life and helps others overcome theirs.
You can find more information about Jessica and her available training tools at jessrichardson.com.
If you have been a victim of sex trafficking, sexual assault, abuse, or domestic violence, you are not alone. Brave women have walked the same path before you, and have chosen to live a life that matters so that you may find peace and healing in their story. We can help connect you with local resources in your community that can lead you to a life worth living. If you or someone you know has a story about #fightingback please email me at Sunshine@YourDamselDiva.comand you may find yourself as a featured Wonder Woman Wednesday spotlight.