Barbara Amaya has been living with a painful, devastating secret for over 40 years. She was a victim of child sex trafficking decades before there was even a term for such a thing. Only in the last few weeks, at age 55, has she been able to start telling her story. For the first time, she has a voice for her brokenness, and people are listening.
“I feel like I was raised by animals, but they would have treated me better.”
View slideshow: Barbara Amaya today.
Family sexual abuse was not uncommon in the ’60s and ’70s, but it was not really an open matter. When Barbara tried to tell her mother of her ordeals, she was met with denial that anything had happened. Without validation or help or protection from the abusers, the cycle of rapes and molestations continued. At 12, Barbara ran away to nearby Washington, D.C. She was caught, put in detention or reform school and would eventually run again. No one ever acknowledged the abuse or asked her what was going on inside. When she was returned to her home and put in school, she knew her world was so different that she would never be able to fit back in.
Using every kind of drug she could access, the young teen was struggling to numb herself from the horrors of her world. Once, while alone in D.C., a woman befriended her and took the girl home with her. Desperately looking for love and acceptance, Barbara was a perfect target for the next stage. She was forced to prostitute herself on the street corners.
At 13, the woman sold her to a male pimp from New York. He was the “stereotypical pimp with the platform shoes and fancy car”, and he played the role of “boyfriend”. Soon, he, too, forced Barbara to sell herself. She stayed with him for about six years and complied, even though she knew she was risking her life every night on the streets of New York. Raped, beaten, shot and stabbed on numerous occasions, she ran away several times, but her captor would always find her and beat her mercilessly into submission.
When picked up by the police for prostitution, Barbara always lied that her age was 19 or 21, as instructed by the pimp, and the officers never questioned that information. They never offered her any help or alternatives. When she got out of jail, she returned to the pimp as her only option.
Barbara’s drug of choice was heroin, and she was so badly addicted that even the pimp realized she was no longer useful to him. She kept aside some of her trick money so she could buy more drugs and then got beaten up for her lies and deceit. She started staying away from the house until he finally cut her loose and left her on the street.
For two years, she lived as the walking dead, homeless, addicted and desolate. A counselor from a methadone program was able to reunite this young woman with her family, and in 1979, Barbara took a train to Philadelphia to see them. She has never looked back on that life nor been back to New York.
Barbara’s website: barbaraamaya.com
Read the rest of Barbara’s story:
- The aftermath of sex trafficking: Dealing with the pain and shame
- A sex trafficking survivor walks in victory, helping other victims
- Child sex trafficking in the US: 40 year comparison of pimps and victims