California Forum

I survived sex trafficking. Here’s how we can protect sex workers from exploitation

This image from 2017, used in a series of stories about human trafficking, shows two women who were working as prostitutes along Parkway Drive in Fresno.
This image from 2017, used in a series of stories about human trafficking, shows two women who were working as prostitutes along Parkway Drive in Fresno. ezamora@fresnobee.com

When I first entered the world of sex trafficking at 17, I did so by my own free will. I met a pimp that I chatted briefly with online. He told me to walk on Stockton Boulevard. After I agreed and started paying him, the abuse began.

Police officers stopped me on Stockton Boulevard to tell me I had to leave. When I told the pimp I was prostituting for at the time, he slapped me in the face and would not let me return home.

As I walked down the Sacramento streets, other pimps would constantly harass me. Working for pimps resembled a prison. It was as if they had me chained to them with invisible shackles.

Before I quit the prostitution lifestyle, I ran away from my abusive pimp of five years and hid in Rancho Cordova hotels. I isolated myself, smoking methamphetamine in the hotel room, terrified to leave – afraid of both law enforcement and my trafficker.

Opinion

While working as a prostitute, I traveled to several cities and states. The San Francisco Bay Area is the main region I worked. I also took frequent trips to Southern California – and, of course, to Sacramento.

In March 2017, I finally gained the courage to escape. I packed my garments and rummaged through drawers, looking for loose change. My pimp’s mother and a roommate tried to stop me from packing up and leaving.

sasha nagro.png
Sasha Nagro

Thankfully, I called a family friend for help and made my escape. I worked as a prostitute for seven years – two years walking the streets and five years working off of escorting websites. The only possessions I had after all those years were some clothes, some large debts and a criminal record.

I am a sex trafficking survivor. Every pimp I worked for abused me. They degrade and abuse women for a living. I believe we must eradicate human trafficking and forced prostitution because it is wrong. Here are some ways I believe we can do that, based on my seven years as a sex worker:

First, if you are a woman being forced to work for a pimp, you must find a way to leave him. Otherwise, years from now, you will depart with nothing, like I did. Your trafficker is not your boyfriend. He does not love you. His single concern is the money you make for him.

As hard as it may seem, staying with an abusive person is harder than leaving. Taking the first step is challenging, but it will begin to get easier as you keep going. You are the captain of your life. Remove the evil forces trying to control you and claim your power back.

If you are a man purchasing sex from trafficked women, you can help them escape. Try to gain a better understanding of the situation. You may not see signs that a woman is physically entrapped, but that doesn’t mean she’s acting out of her own free will. Be compassionate and develop a friendship with her so she may feel secure in requesting assistance from you when she flees from her pimp.

Finally, our leaders should legalize prostitution because it will make women safer. Treating prostitution as a legitimate business will take power from pimps and help stop child sex trafficking. The problem of human trafficking and forced prostitution will decrease.

Legalizing sex work will allow sex workers to share information about traffickers and other criminals with law enforcement. That’s because women will no longer fear arrest.

Human trafficking and forced prostitution are unacceptable. They must be eliminated. As a survivor, I believe we must come together on a solution. I believe the solution is clear: California should legalize sex work.

Sasha Nagro is a writer and a survivor of sex trafficking



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