-Excerpt from work-in-progress memoir
Please be forewarned that content might include
details of abuse and potentially triggering language.
Everything I know, I learned in the ring. Be tough! On your toes, ready to handle the next blow. Don’t run when someone approaches. You’re gonna have to take it; shake it off and prepare for the next. Don’t show any emotion–especially if it hurts. There’s no fleeing the ring.
A fighter practices by meting out punches on a fixed object. Hands in front of face, he dances in a tight circle, jabbing deftly at the tethered leather punching bag, the tone of each thud signaling how solidly he hit his target. When sparring, boxers wear gloves, headgear, and mouthguards. It’s not like a street fight. There are rules in boxing. Each boxer has a trainer who wants him to overcome the guy trying to destroy him. And although peer pressure and macho pride probably somewhat preclude it, theoretically, the fighter does have the option to exit the ring.
Not so, when I was a child. I wasn’t a fighter. The ring encompassing me was not a twelve-by-twelve-foot elevated platform in a sweat-infused sparring gym. Nor was it boxing circuit. The ring that enraptured my father and swayed his deviant moral compass into enslaving his own daughter: a child prostitution ring. For the child of a compromised and complicit parent, there was no way of escaping the evil embrace of that ring.
In current lingo, a child pornography adjunct to prostitution activities was merely a “side gig.” Pedophiles passed pictures in the same way sports enthusiasts might exchange trading cards. Often, child pornography pictures amounted to promotional items. Just as a diehard sports enthusiast who can’t get tickets will watch games on TV, those who couldn’t afford the real thing — attending a child prostitution convention — resorted to pornography. Pictures were usually freebies. Prostitution clients—they paid. From early childhood, I was made to swallow the lie that our affluent family’s budget depended on, as my thug-relatives called it, the “serious coin” of child prostitution.
Actual monetary figures are somewhat vague. Obfuscating code words covered tracks for “client” and “provider”–the shameless euphemisms for john and pimp. A bible, a book, and a bill (aka a buck) equated to ten thousand, one thousand, and one hundred dollars, respectively. A semi? $500. Clients had very specific requests as to gender, age, and fantasy elements of “appointments.” “Let me look in my wallet,” spoken by my father to another man meant, “I’ll get back to you on much that would cost.” The largest non-contract code amount I recall was coined “The Vatican.” That was $100,000, a generic amount for an event. “Give or take,” the ring representative would advise. VIP rooms, a lot of four-and-under children, extreme or elaborate dress-up requests; these and other off-menu items generally cost more than the standard amount for the typical five-to-ten year-old core group. In the late sixties — when I was “in my prime,” as child prostitution brokers liked to say — $100,000 was a lot of money, about 750,000 in 2019 dollars.
In the summer of 2019, Registered Sex Offender Jeffrey Epstein’s schemes came into the spotlight of national media attention. I have tremendous empathy for Epstein’s victims because I understand the reach and power of the super-rich; I observed first-hand their tenacity in getting what they want, their ability to cover their tracks, and the profound weight behind their threats. Although it takes courage for any survivor to express her abuse experiences publicly, I specifically recognize and applaud the courage it took for the Epstein victims to make a public stand. As victims, our silence benefits those who swore us to secrecy. Through speaking out, we together can form an army boldly facing our unrighteous aggressors.
The antidote to the COMPLICITY of pedophiles in their violence against children is the COMMUNITY of those who suffered their crimes.
With time and continued therapy, maybe my own capacity to trust might expand so that I can experience greater community. For now, the boldness I seem to have exists only from pen to paper. My default mode is PTSD-afflicted recluse who dreads encountering the collateral consequences from ghosts of abusers past: emotional triggers that lurk outside the safety zone of my home. Although the bravery of those who have spoken out — about Cosby, Epstein, Nassar, Weinstein — does inspire me, I still hide behind the shield of pseudonym. Despite my reluctance to come forward, I try to encourage myself that it’s okay to stay back and build strength; there must be others in the same place. In that, I find connection–albeit invisible, for now.