An Open Letter To The Men Who Purchased me

For those of you unfamiliar with my story. I was trafficked. Saying those words. Identifying with something so horrific seems unbelievable. Looking back at what I survived, I'm breathless. Child or not, it's the most soulless thing a human can do to someone. To put a price tag on them, and literally, declare their worth. That's how it felt to me as a 10-year-old when I was sold for the first time for $100... From that moment things spiraled and before I knew it, I had been manipulated by fear to leave the safety of my grandparents to actually walk into hell just doors down. My family is wonderful, and they had no idea. Part of me being vulnerable to being trafficked was that the possibility of something so terrible happening was so far off their radar, but that's another conversation for another day. 

From the ages of 10-12, I was sold. Not every day or week, just when I happened to be around during the summers or weekends. Gone for only 30-45 minutes at a time. Everyone thought I was just riding my bike. There were several men I saw through those years on a number of occasions. I don't even know if these men are still alive, but I have something to say to them and anyone like them...

I forgive you.

I forgive you because I know that hurt people, hurt people. That doesn’t mean what you did is ok or you have the grace to continue hurting others, but rather my conscience is merciful toward you despite how you not only stole my childhood but much of my life.

I use to be defined by you. Fearful everywhere I went that you would find me, and you did because you were burned into my memory. Those memories were crippling. It was all I could some days just to breathe. Your faces and the names you called me haunted my soul until it defined my existence. It was an identity I didn’t want, though. I tried to starve away the attention of men by making myself too thin and regaining some sort of control I knew I would never really have back. I would have committed suicide, several times, but you made me hate myself so much that I didn’t even think that I deserved that kind of peace. You ruined me. In the same way, if not worse than the way you were ruined by someone in your life. Well, I refuse to make the same mistake and become part of the darkness. 

The shame you transferred to me has fallen off. I am undefined by how you treated me, spoke to me, and harmed me. In fact, I am freer than ever since I let go of you and everything you did. I released vengeance to God and came to the realization that you were broken too. You have likely seen and experienced some traumatic things, but that is where our similarities end. I refuse to continue a cycle of abuse and instead choose love over hate, hope over cynicism, and to be a light rather than add to the darkness. To be defined by my future actions rather than by the past. To face every demon that wishes I walk around broken, afraid, and unable to reach my potential. 

Maybe I am one of your demons. A regret that keeps you bound and unable to move forward. Well, if I am, maybe this will release you to heal. I don't hate you or wish the worst. Actually, I wish the best. I hope you find transformation and let go of the broken things that lead you to treat me the way you did. That regret and shame won't define you.  Just loosen your grip and let go to leave it all behind. Be brave enough to face it. Walk away from who you use to be and become someone different. I did. Does it happen overnight? No, of course not. I believe that what defines you is how you move forward. Your decisions moment to moment. What you do when temptation strikes. Forgiveness allows that, for both parties to move forward. To not harbor the past but move on in hope of a better future. It doesn't mean I will forget, I wish I could. What I have done is let go of the dark person you were. I hope you can let go to become someone new too. It's time to forgive yourself for what you have done and the people who lead you to the path you took. I hope you are able to live a life weightless of who you once were and be transformed. Nothing is impossible. I believe in you.

You still matter,