January is Human Sex Trafficking awareness month. This time last year, it didn’t have the personal impact on me as it does today. As I am typing this, I am reminded how lucky I am to be here. How lucky I am that I got on that plane that took me back to Canada from Punta Cana, Dominican. How lucky I am that I didn’t become a statistic, lost in the dark side of paradise as just a couple of girls that went on a trip and didn’t come home.
Room 3116 has the vibration of women who have been raped, who fought for their lives and who fought to get out. Women who didn’t get to come home to their families. Women who went on a vacation to soak up some rays, get some ocean therapy, who became targets of an organized prostitution ring being ran out of the resort that served them the laced cocktails.
I was one of those women, but I got out seconds before we were grabbed to disappear into the darkness of the night of May 1st. A sea shell clutched in hand to protect myself, pushing passed the security guard coming down our hallway to take us. The sounds of our flip flops echoing down the hallways as we ran for our lives. The look in the guard’s eyes when I looked over my shoulder and locked eyes with him. He had that look like he knew he just fucked up, and he had someone higher up to explain to.
We got into a van, we drove past where the girl we had seen in the lobby be dragged out into the street to be raped by the security guards and the boss. I think about her everyday and how I wish I could have helped her. Did she have someone back home? What did she do for work? What was she like? Is she still breathing?
We went and stayed at a strange man’s house that night, because we didn’t have any other choice. He was the only person who could help us, the only one who was able to save us from the fate that was set out for us the minute they started preparing for our arrival at Whala Bavaro. An acquaintance that we had met earlier in the week. Did I trust him? Not completely. But it was either that or be raped, held for ransom, sold on the sex trade, probably eventually murdered. I didn’t sleep that night at his house. I watched the door most of the night.
The next night we stayed at a different resort, our last night in Dominican before we flew back home. I felt like I was still living the nightmare. I didn’t feel safe. I was among security guards that for all I knew, had ties to the other resort. I felt like we were being watched. Sleeping barely happened. I watched the door waiting for someone to come in. I felt trapped, all I wanted to do was go home. I needed to get away from this paradise that all I could see now was the dark side.
The next day we flew out of Dominican and it wasn’t until the plane’s wheels touched down in the Toronto Pearson Airport that I let go and sobbed uncontrollably because it was over. The man next to me asked if I was scared of flying. No sir, we just lived through hell. The nightmare was over. Being back on Canadian soil was when it clicked that I was alive, I was safe, I was about to go home and resume normal life, so I thought.
The first few nights at home, I would wake up in the darkness terrified that I was trapped in a basement in Dominican. I would feel my heartbeat ripping through my chest, sweat beading down my temple, and it was then that I would feel my dog curled up next to my legs that anchored me back into the present moment. I am home. I am alive. I am safe.
Those first few weeks I lived in shock. I felt guilty for carrying out my day to day life. It felt so wrong. I almost didn’t come home, and here I am at work like nothing happened, having people getting pissed off for normal day to day things and I would stare at them judging them for how petty they sounded. I had no time or empathy for their shit… after all didn’t they realise that there were women being sold for what is in between their legs?! I had so much anger at society in that time.
The hardest thing was having the people I care about question the reality of the situation. They tried to rationalize what happened with giving reasons of how I could be perceiving things wrong. No. No. You weren’t there. It took a google engine search to show that this resort had been shut down a few months prior for a prostitution and drug ring to get that validation that I needed to feel like my voice was being heard. I will never forget who said to me, “I believe you,” without me showing the search engine results because hearing those words was all I needed to hear to feel like I had a voice.
As the initial shock wore off, day to day life still just seemed so… empty. I felt disconnected from myself. I was trapped in a constant state of either depression, anxiety, or withdrawal. Being alone with men triggered me. I had a panic attack where I lost complete control of my body in a store where I was alone with the shop owner… someone that I knew, yet just the thought that I am alone in here with this man made me go to a place that I had no control over. I haven’t gone into that shop since, as I was so humiliated.
It was soon after I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, anxiety and depression. Some months I did okay, other months were so dark that some days I couldn’t get out of bed. I signed myself up for Group Therapy of women who have been sexually assaulted, MMA to teach myself how to defend myself, frequent reiki appointments, and PTSD counselling.
Believe it or not, travelling seems to help me the most. Snapping myself out of my state and getting myself out of my normal day to day is enough to break the pattern of the PTSD fog. I can come home and ride that high vibration for a month or 2 before things start to slip back into the dark fog that I have learned to live in with my PTSD.
When I am operating at a high vibration, I feel closer to that free spirited version of myself that I was dancing away on the beaches of Dominican with waves crashing behind me before May 1st. I have learned that I still can’t do too much when I am operating at that high vibration, otherwise if I’m not taking the time to rest and do self care my PTSD fog will slam into me so hard to force me to slow down. When my vibration slips into a lower frequency, that’s when fear, anxiety, depression, insecurities, inner critic voices creep in and consume me. It takes days, weeks and sometimes months for me to pull myself out of it.
I am grateful to be alive and I am so fucking lucky to be here. May 1st, 2017 changed my life and changed me into a different version of myself. I have a long journey of healing to go yet, but I have the tools to help me through the dark times and I have a few people that I know I can fully rely on to lean on when I need to with my PTSD.
January is Human Sex Trafficking Awareness month. To the children, women and men who have been victims of human sex trafficking, I have no words, other than, I am sorry and I believe you.