Wendy Barnes tells a compelling story in And Life Continues: Sex Trafficking and My Journey to Freedom. It is not an easy book to read, and, without question, it was not an easy book for Barnes to write.
She details her experience as the victim of a sex trafficker, a man devoid of compassion, humanity, and morals. In the preface to the book, she says, “Through a childhood of poverty, neglect, and abuse, I formed the beliefs that would write the script of my life. At fifteen, I left home to escape the chaos and traded in a childhood of violence for a fifteen-year ‘adult’ relationship of violence.”
Forced into prostitution by the man she fell in love with, the man she believed was saving her from her difficult childhood, Barnes never sugar coats her experiences or assumes the mantle of “poor me.” Even though she is brutally honest about the things she had to do to protect her children and to please her husband, she does not make excuses for her behavior. She does not seek our pity; she seeks our understanding as well as our outrage that things like this go on in our society today.
It is a beautifully rendered story of a shocking, disturbing, and ugly situation. Barnes’ voice is powerful as she describes her multiple attempts at suicide, her self-mutilation, and her addiction to her husband-pimp, an addiction more controlling than any drug. Whenever she took her children and escaped from him, one phone call would bring her back.
Ironically, for Barnes, prison brought her freedom. It was her true escape from a life of violence and degradation. Her husband’s imprisonment and her enforced separation from him gave her the time and space she needed to confront the truth of her experiences and to begin building a healthy life.
I’ve heard prostitution called a “victimless” crime, and in places where it has been legalized the prevailing myth is that the women involved and their clients should be allowed to make their own choices and live their lives as they wish. Sadly, too many women have been coerced into that lifestyle, finding no alternatives for their lives.
Human trafficking is real and it isn’t just women who are its victims. Children—boys and girls—are often bought and sold in a not-so-secret marketplace. And it isn’t just somewhere else. It’s likely in your state, your city, your town, in your own backyard. Read Wendy Barnes’ story and walk in her shoes for a few hundred pages. You will be changed.