Rachel exudes courage. The 21-year-old young lady is stepping up on a platform that will save a lot of lives. A victim of sexual exploitation, on Friday, March 13, she was the “voice of change on the world stage” when she spoke during a forum titled “Unfinished Business: American Girls from the Beijing Platform for Action” as part of United Nations 59th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women in New York City.
Rachel has been dubbed rolling out’s National Women’s History Month hero for her bravery and selflessness. She is also making state and global history as she is also the name, face, and experience behind the Georgia Senate and House versions of proposed legislation officially named Rachel’s Law (Safe Harbor Law). She has met privately with Georgia Governor Nathan Deal, and testified before members of the Georgia State Senate.
Rachel’s Law is believed to be the first state legislation that is centered on sex trafficking and exploitation of youth to be named after a youth survivor of sex trafficking.
A full time college student, youth leader, advocate and survivor, Rachel is a product of the great work of Living Water for Girls (Atlanta), founded by Lisa Williams, which serves girls, survivors of sexual exploitation.
“I am speaking for those who aren’t ready to talk and for those who are afraid to open up and embrace what they’ve been through so they can move on,” Rachel begins during our meeting, a day before she was scheduled to travel to New York. Rachel was so open an honest, and this writer is truly grateful because she included me to bear witness.
Here’s her story…
The native of Oakland, California met who she thought was an ideal boyfriend online when she was only 17. He was older and quite a prince charming. It didn’t take long for his crown to develop into two red horns and the grooming began. Here, Rachel shares her account of how her desire for independence that drives most teenagers coupled with her trust was taken for granted and the older guy, 30 something, and his female accomplice took control of her life and body by kidnapping and exploiting her hundreds of miles from home.
Why did you trust this guy you met on the Internet?
I thought he had my best interest at heart. But, he ended up being a pimp. It’s how I got involved in sex trafficking.
How did your photos end up online?
He asked me for photos but I didn’t realize he was using them to advertise me online.
Do you have any idea what website you were being advertised for sale on?
How did you find out?
He eventually told me after a situation in Miami.
What situation? Did he take you to Miami for vacation?
Yes. I thought it was going to be a vacation. I was there with him and a female friend, who ended up being a pimp too. She forced me to get involved in sexual acts with me. She introduced me to the lifestyle and was very good with her words. She told me we were just going to have fun.
Were you comfortable dating a 30 something year old man?
I wasn’t thinking about his age, just what he told me, “We are going to have fun. I am going to take you shopping and I am going to take you on a trip.” I’d never been to Miami and it was something new to me, something different.
Was this female pimp someone you felt you could trust and look up to?
Yes. She was convincing with her words, was [skilled] at what she did. She taught me how to talk to guys and get their attention. She was good, and she was extra. She groped the men.
So this very persuasive and aggressive woman was teaching you skills, but you came to Miami with your boyfriend. Did you think that was OK?
I wasn’t thinking about it. At the time, I knew I was in Miami. I wanted to go to the beach and have fun. I was uncomfortable but I knew it was too late to second guess myself. We were on South Beach during Memorial Day Weekend.
Did you learn fast?
I was hesitant. Once I got the guy’s attention, I would look to her for the next step. It wasn’t something I was [accustomed] to doing.
Did your first experience happen that weekend?
Do you remember how you felt when it was over?
I was out of my comfort zone. I didn’t feel human. I felt like I was just there.
Were you alone with the guy?
There were several men and the two of us.
Were there other experiences?
If they weren’t paying, she would be disrespectful and walk away. It just didn’t end right.
She was all about the money?
What kind of engagement with the men was it. Oral? Anal? Vaginal Intercourse? Did the price change?
She really negotiated that.
So you had to be down for what she dictated?
Now she has shifted from victim to victor.
Rachel is the first ambassador of the I am Rachel Movement which recognizes that, indeed, we are all Rachel, united in our search for an end to exploitation and the creation of safe, healthy environments for all children.
Here’s an overview of Safe Harbor/Rachel’s Law (Georgia Senate Bill 8 and House Bill 244):
- Extends the statute of limitations for the victims of domestic minor sex trafficking to file civil actions against their traffickers to age 25
- Expands forfeiture and seizure laws related to sex trafficking and related offenses– allowing any proceeds from trafficking, and the vehicles operated by a person who is guilty of trafficking, to be subject to forfeiture to the state
- Establishes a Sexually Exploited Children Fund Commission
- Amends the State Sexual Offender Registry to now include convicted offenders oftrafficking a person for sexual servitude
- Requires the development of a statewide plan for the coordinated delivery of services to sexually exploited and trafficked childrenOriginal versions of the bill placed a 1% tax on adult entertainment clubs. That money would have been allocated to a fund to provide rehabilitation services to those who have been victims of trafficking. After listening to Rachel’s testimony on the importance of services like the ones she received at Living Water for Girls, the bill was almost unanimously passed in the Senate. However, the tax has been stricken from the House version of the Bill.