Finding hope: The story of a child sex trafficking victim


WASHINGTON, January 8, 2015 — As a trafficked child, I clung to hope, and the light deep inside me may have flickered but could never be extinguished. I never accepted what was happening to me as normal. Even though those who trafficked me denigrated me in every way shape and form, I always knew it was not what I deserved.

The faces of the boys and girls who did not survive the ring that trafficked me have always haunted me. The Federal Bureau of Investigation reports the average life span of a child being trafficked is seven years. The drugs, alcohol and abusive lifestyle wither the fragile spirit of a child leaving them to die in the shadow of hope, an invisible casualty of an assault on humanity.

I was constantly forced to take alcohol and drugs, and sometimes the haze that that combination created allowed me to endure things that still give me nightmares. Being trafficked is being forced to change the very nature of your being to define yourself in a way that creates conflict in the very depths of your soul. Some break under the strain of the “life” and accept this as their fate as a means of survival, but there would be a time in my life when God would call me to a higher purpose.

For seven years I survived the abuse that the pedophile ring subjected me to, and one event would lead me down a path that would liberate me but only at great cost. There was a young boy who had been trafficked alongside me for most of the time I was the “property” of the pedophile ring. His name was Steve, and he and I had survived the worst and found the ability to laugh at the smallest things. Steve could make people laugh and often times those who trafficked us tolerated his jokes.

One day the leader of the pedophile ring, “Duke,” was going through a nasty divorce and Steve just happened to tell the wrong joke. I watched helplessly as Duke choked the last ounce of life from Steve. His death was covered up and no one was allowed to mention his name again, but in my mind I will never forget his ability to make me smile.

The power structure had grown so immense that the justice system had no meaning to anyone involved with the group, and members considered their perversion an elite status that signified an evolution above the rest of humanity. They were convinced that molesting and torturing children was their God- given right and no one could stop them. I was trapped, and like many, I became merely a shadow of a human being as my hope dwindled down to a distant flicker. There was no escape and it was only in my mind that freedom existed, and in my imagination my life was all just a bad dream.

At the age of twelve, I stood in front of my mother’s medicine cabinet and stared at the bottle of sleeping pills. I can still see the empty bottle of pills as they fell to the floor, and as their contents rested in my mouth, I paused once to pray for the others and for freedom for them all. I turned the bottle of vodka I had stolen from my parents’ liquor cabinet upside down as the liquid carried the agents of my demise down my throat. In one final act I poured the remainder of the vodka over the contents of Neale’s filing cabinets filled with child pornography and set them on fire.

As my knees began to buckle under me, I arrived at my chosen place among my mother’s roses. As the world began to slip away from me I was pulled into the depths of an intense white light. I journeyed through space and time as the story of my life played all around me and the voices of all those who had both tortured me and loved me spoke in a never-ending chorus.

Suddenly I was standing on a far-reaching plane of white fog and I felt a presence that comforted me at my very core. A familiar voice spoke to me that resonated not only in my mind but also in the depths of my soul. It spoke to me as a long lost friend and I immediately realized that it was the voice of Steve, my friend who had died at the hands of the sex traffickers who had enslaved us. “This is not your time, and your pain in this world will no longer define you. It will guide you to who you were meant to be and you will find a purpose in your life that will not only wash away the pain of your own life but that of others who have suffered under the evil that lurks in the world.” the voice said.

I awoke in a hospital emergency room as wide-eyed doctors stood over me. They had pronounced me dead three minutes ago and a priest was entering the room.

From that day forward, it was as if my soul was encased in celestial armor because there was nothing anyone could do to me that could douse the flame that raged inside my soul and that would drive me to change the fate not only of myself but also of others who were suffering in silence. I would not permanently escape the grip of the organization until at the age of seventeen I joined the United States Marine Corps and never looked back.

Since that day in the Emergency Room, I wake up every morning with a passion and determination to fight against those who victimize and enslave innocent children. I was able to see the organization begin to be dismantled with the help of individuals with whom I made contact while serving in the military, but that is, as they say, a story for another day.

I sincerely believe it is through God’s intervention that I am here today as a survivor of human trafficking and not a casualty. I stand here today not only as a survivor but as a living testament that there is always hope and a light inside all of us that no one can extinguish. My prayer is that I can save at least one child from the hell I endured before it is once again time for me to hear the voice of my friend Steve.

Please join me in the fight to end human trafficking and save the next child before they are sentenced to a ravaged childhood with a lifetime of broken hopes and dreams. Learn the signs of human trafficking and call the human trafficking hotline at 1-888-3737-888 if you suspect someone is being trafficked. To learn more about the signs of human trafficking visit the Restore One website, Polaris Project website: or the Department of Homeland Security’s Blue Campaign we can bring an end to the ravaged hopes and dreams of so many children and stem the tide of stolen innocence sweeping across this country.

Read part one of “Finding hope: The story of a child sex trafficking victim” : “For victims of child sex trafficking there is no Christmas” here:


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Jerome Elam
Jerome Elam is a survivor of child sex trafficking, child abuse, and child pornography. He is also the child of an alcoholic and a child survivor of domestic violence as well as a child of divorce. Raised in the south, Jerome enlisted in the United States Marine Corps at the age of seventeen to escape the nightmare he had become trapped in. That day, Jerome’s life found a new beginning as he embarked upon a journey that would show him the world and open his eyes to the strength of the human spirit. After his enlistment was finished, Jerome attended college and graduated to work in the Biotechnology sector. Motivated by the painful memory of his past, Jerome began to speak out about his abuse and found the healing force of God’s unconditional love and the joy of starting his own family. He is a fierce advocate for all children deprived of their voices, a speaker, a Staff Writer and Columnist for Communities Digital News and a veteran of the United States Marine Corps. When asked to describe his life Jerome says,” I have struggled against many things in my life and somehow I found a way to survive. Writing is my passion and it keeps me in touch with the wealth everyone holds deep inside their hearts and minds. I share my experiences in the hope that those suffering in silence will find the courage to speak out and share their voices. I have been blessed to have God reveal his purpose for me in saving innocent children from predators.”
  • LaQuita L. Smith-Garcia

    Thank You for sharing your story Mr. Elam.

  • With Joyful Tears

    Dear Jerome, What a powerful story, I will never be the same after reading this. You are so brave and strong, and I am so thankful to hear your story. My prayers are with you and your family, and all those children and adults who are suffering in bondage. I know Our Creator has a plan for each of us, even when it’s hard to understand why bad things happen. Your story demonstrates this so clearly, and will be something I will carry with me in my heart always. Thank You.