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For victims of child sex trafficking there is no Christmas

Written By | Jan 9, 2015

Washington, January 8, 2015 — It was December 24, 1970 as the faint glow of Christmas lights reflected on the window of the cheap hotel room, and darkness fell on the outskirts of the large southern town. The dingy yellow carpet raked across my bare feet as I nervously drew pictures of Santa and his reindeer on the fogged glass. Outside, the distant sound of car horns echoed as they slowly snaked their way toward home and Christmas with their families.

Behind me, the sound of voices temporarily interrupted the haze of drugs and alcohol I had been forced to take as an argument ensued over the price of photographs of my naked eight-year-old body that lay neatly lined up on the faded bedspread. For the last eight hours I had been raped and used for child pornography by a steady stream of men and one woman. They had satisfied their twisted sexual appetites, exploiting my innocence as the pockets of those who were trafficking me filled with cash.

It had been three years since this nightmare I was trapped in had begun. My mother had met a man named Neale who forced me into being a sexual slave as the property of the pedophile ring that he belonged to. My fate had been sealed so long ago as I was ushered into this world and set adrift on a sea of dysfunction, a rudderless ship whose sails rose and fell at the whim of my mother’s addiction to chaos.

While many children were filled with the glow of the holiday spirit and the expectation of dreams fulfilled on Christmas morning, my childhood was filled with hopeless desperation. I had seen violence in my life and most often times been the target, but seeing the bottomless evil that dwelled in the eyes of my traffickers scared me down to the depths of my very soul.

Many would say I was placed on a collision course with the world of trafficking from the day I was born. I was cradled by dysfunction even as I lay deep within my mother’s womb. She was an alcoholic and it was her way of altering her reality to make what she condoned by her inaction acceptable within her dwindling conscience. Her marriage to my biological father had been short lived and lasted only three years, as he served overseas during the 1960’s. His return ushered in the demise of my innocence and filled my world with the plague of domestic violence. The life my mother and I had shared since my birth had never been stable, but the violence I experienced at the hands of my mother and grandparents was a mere whisper compared to what lay ahead of me.

Neale and the pedophile ring he belonged to were on a whole different level. We are often told stories about evil but most of us are oblivious to its presence as it silently moves among us. My indoctrination to the “group,” as they often referred to themselves in private, consisted of being raped and beaten by each member. Many of the members enjoyed inflicting pain on innocent children as they were tied up, but several were as unhinged as a barn door in a tornado. Children were choked unconscious to satisfy the twisted sexual appetites of a select few of the members, and many clients of the trafficking ring also shared this sick practice.

Those who employed the “services” of my traffickers were pillars of society and the type of people who would sit beside you in church. There was a transformation that took place when I was forced into a room with them. The term Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde does not even come close to describing the personality change these individuals underwent.

For those who have never seen the true face of a sexual predator and witnessed the reflection in their eyes that claims you as a sexual object, there is darkness inside them no one can describe. In their presence I ceased to exist as a person and every ounce of humanity was stripped from me as both my body and my will was bent to conform to their twisted fantasies. Pedophiles have a sick and deprived sense of love toward their victims and in their view they have a sense of entitlement to ravage a child’s innocence.

Pedophilia often exists in the presence of another disorder and according to Abel GG, Becker JV, Cunningham-Rathner J, Mittelman M, Rouleau JL. Multiple paraphilic diagnoses among sex offenders. Bull Am Acad Psychiatry Law. 1988;16:153-168, “Fifty percent to 70% of pedophiles can be diagnosed as having another paraphilia, such as frotteurism, exhibitionism, voyeurism, or sadism.”

When I first began telling the story of my childhood I would often wake up in the middle of the night screaming still feeling their hands around my neck as I passed into unconsciousness.

The Department of Justice estimates that between 100,000 and 300,000 children are at risk of being trafficked in this country right now. Human trafficking is a $9.5 billion a year business in the U.S. according to the United Nations, and within the first forty-eight hours of leaving home a runaway child will be approached by a human trafficker. Human trafficking is second only to the drug trade as the largest criminal enterprise, according to the Justice Department. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) reports that pimps can make from $150,000 to $200,000 per year for each child. The NCMEC also reports a pimp has an average of four children, and the Polaris Project, an anti-trafficking non profit, reports the average victim of sex trafficking is forced to have sex 20-48 times a day.

Historically, women have been identified as the overwhelming majority of victims of human trafficking, but recent studies have shown male victims of trafficking have been severely overlooked. In a 2008 study by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, of those who were sexually exploited in New York, fifty percent of victims were found to be boys from the United States, being trafficked domestically. Until now anti-trafficking organizations have been focused on female victims but that tide is now starting to turn. A 2013 study by the organization ECPAT discovered males are more likely to be arrested for shoplifting or other petty crimes even though they are being trafficked sexually.

For forty years I suffered in silence, struggling with the truth I had buried so deep inside myself.

As a child I was starved for affection. My alcoholic mother met a man named Neale and cast aside the very last drop of my humanity. In the beginning Neale feigned affection for me as he manipulated the heart of a young boy to his evil intentions. I became trapped by threats of violence against my mother and myself. The maternal bond defies logic, and even though she cast me into a world of darkness, there was a place in my heart where I dreamed my mother would transform into the protector I needed so desperately. Forty years later as an adult, when I confronted her with the horrific events of my childhood she still clung to the denial that had allowed her to go on living while her child suffered under the yoke of evil.

Once Neale began molesting me, it was not long before he began using me for child pornography, and soon after that he introduced me to the pedophile ring he belonged to.

Studies and case reports indicate that 30% to 80% of individuals who viewed child pornography and 76% of individuals who were arrested for Internet child pornography had molested a child (Lanning KV. Child Molesters: A Behavioral Analysis. 4th ed. Alexandria,Va: National Center for Missing & Exploited Children; 2001.)

As a victim of child pornography, every time someone viewed a photo of me I was being abused all over again. The pedophile ring that trafficked me was an ever-expanding malfeasance consuming everything in its path, using blackmail and violence to bend those who resisted to their will. Many clients were powerful figures, and of the many times I had tried to speak out, my silence was secured at a heavy price to my own well-being. During a doctor visit one of my “handlers” left the room momentarily and I tried to tell the man examining my cuts and bruises about the hell I was trapped in. Later I returned to the same hospital with three broken ribs as I was taught a lesson in keeping my mouth shut.

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



Jerome Elam

Jerome Elam is President and CEO of Trafficking in America Task Force. Raised in a broken home by an alcoholic parent, he is a survivor of child abuse/domestic violence, child sex trafficking, and child pornography. Brought up in the South, Jerome enlisted in the United States Marine Corps at the age of seventeen. The decision to serve was made, in part, as an effort to escape the tragic circumstances he was trapped in. Through the experience of serving his country, Jerome found a new beginning and embarked upon a journey that showed him the world. This opened his eyes to the strength of the human spirit. After his completion of eight years in the United States Marine Corps, Mr. Elam attended the University of Florida, earning a Bachelor of Science degree. He went on to spend several years working in the Biotechnology sector. Motivated by the painful memories of his past, Jerome found his inner strength and began to speak out about his abuse. Through this journey, he found the healing force of God's unconditional love and discovered the joy of starting his own family. Today, Mr. Elam is a fierce Advocate for all children deprived of their voice. He is a public speaker, a staff writer, and known columnist for Communities Digital News. Recently featured as one of New York's New Abolitionists, he remains dedicated to the protection and empowerment of trafficked people. Staying true to values he learned in the Marine Corps continues to provide a safe harbor for all, regardless of age, race, gender, sexual identity, or immigration status. When asked to describe his life experiences Mr. Elam stated, "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 to me in saving innocent children from predators." Jerome has received the Award for Courage presented by the National Council of Jewish Women for his work in the advocacy arena and has been appointed a Special Advisor to the Attorney General of Utah.