When we heard the news that Patriots owner Robert Kraft was recently charged with allegedly buying sex, we were angry and devastated. But because of our experience as trafficking survivors, we know that the real story here is not one man. The real story is all of you who think it is acceptable to buy someone. Here is what we want you, the buyers, to know:
1. We are human beings. We are not toys or sexual objects. We have feelings. Our exploitation began before we turned 15, as is common in the commercial sex industry. Because someone we trusted took advantage of our vulnerabilities, we were brought into an industry that robbed us of our childhoods.
2. The worst part of being in “the life” was having to have sex with strangers — yes, you. Afterwards, we felt dirty. We couldn’t scrub that feeling off our skin. Imagine what you would feel if you or someone you love was in our shoes.
3. The more you buy us, the more we suffer. In order to have sex with you, we had to disassociate. It was like we weren’t even there when it was happening. You might have had our bodies, but you didn’t have our souls.
4. We believe that the pain is the same whether you have sex with an exploited adult or an exploited child. Whether you use words like “prostitution” or “trafficking,” exploitation is exploitation so don’t kid yourself one isn’t a victim. You may be able to convince yourself that this is a choice or what a woman wants — but whether you are in “the Life” because someone is forcing you, someone is pretending to love you, or you have nowhere else to turn, it is all trauma, and it is degrading. Even more than that it is dehumanizing.
5. What we have survived would’ve broken you. We are stronger than you know. We have people we can rely on at My Life My Choice, an organization that supports survivors like us. There are women who been in “the Life” and are now our role models. And we support each other as we are reclaiming our voices or finding them for the first time. We are finishing high school, going to college, getting jobs, building healthy relationships. You did not break us. We will survive this, but you have to live with what you have done.
Now you know. You can no longer pretend that you don’t. What you do now matters. Based on our experiences, you are probably a middle-aged man who knows about supply and demand. It is demand that fuels this multibillion-dollar industry.
If you didn’t buy people, people wouldn’t sell people.
H. (age 19), J. (age 15), and P. (age 17)
The Globe does not identify victims of sex crimes. H., J., and P. are youth leaders at My Life My Choice, which has received support from Robert Kraft and funding from the New England Patriots Charitable Foundation. My Life My Choice is a nonprofit that works to end commercial sexual exploitation of children by empowering youth and their allies to fight back.