“As my descendants come across my name, I don’t want them to come across the horrors I went through. I want them to see this article, and read that I’m a survivor.”
Justine Baker is a Native American artist, advocate, and survivor of sex trafficking and abuse.
As a teenager, Justine ran away from home multiple times and was labelled as a “bad teenager.” This, Justine says, led to her being targeted for exploitation. Perpetrators often target individuals without close family connections for grooming.
Justine experienced grooming and abuse by a man in her community. He targeted her, gained the trust of her parents, isolated her, and filmed the abuse. To ensure her silence, he threatened to ruin her stepfather’s career. He tried to make Justine believe that what he had done was mutual.
“It wasn’t; I was a minor.”
When Justine initially tried to speak up, she was met with unsupportive reactions from her stepfather and her boyfriend.
“Being called a liar, and especially having issues as a teenager and running away, people assume that anything that comes out of your mouth isn’t true… It further convinced me that, if I spoke up, I wasn’t going to be taken seriously. He knew that.”
The first time a survivor discloses is critical, and a negative reaction often can deter them from getting the help they need. For Justine, the negative reactions from the people closest to her ensured that she kept quiet for years to come. Others were aware of this and often used it to perpetrate further abuse, including the trafficking Justine experienced by her former spouse.
“If I had been taken to the hospital, that person would have gone to jail and I would have gotten the therapy and help I needed. And it would have been unlikely I would have continued to be exploited and assaulted throughout my life. If it’s not addressed the first time appropriately, it tends to happen again. From the research I did, each victim who did not receive appropriate help and support went on to be abused multiple times in their life. Silence is like a green light for predators.”
While being trafficked, Justine’s assaulters made illicit videos and other materials. These videos and photos from her abuse still haunt her.
“It makes it really hard to find work and to be taken seriously. It affected my family. People Google my name and see that stuff. It’s retraumatizing when you’re on the Internet. Each view, every comment, all the revenue from it—I feel like it’s happening again and again to me. I have to go through each site and flag them to let them know it was trafficking. There are over 2 million. It feels like it will never end. But, that is what these sites want: like the predators, they hope I’ll shut up and quit.”
Justine has also been retraumatized by seeing those who assaulted her continue to achieve success in their personal and professional lives. The perpetrator who originally assaulted her even ran for mayor of Justine’s town, which she discovered from a campaign postcard in her mailbox.
“I’ve never quit looking for him. I still remember the stacks of video tapes in his basement, wondering how many were similar to me?...The people who have raped me and harmed me throughout life, I can now see them on Facebook. Some of them are multimillionaires in high positions. They have families, all the smiles and happy pictures. That’s something that I definitely don’t have.”
For Justine and for many survivors, the abuse went on to impact her later relationships and her ability to trust others.
“I ended up having a history of really negative, unhealthy relationships and didn’t recognize what healthy was. That comes from being abused as a child, having an unhealthy childhood, and not knowing what love was. What was comfortable to me were things that were familiar and would be red flags to others.”
Justine attributes this issue to law enforcement bias against Indigenous communities, as well as a lack of substantial resources in rural areas. She also says that the numbers of missing and murdered Indigenous women don’t tell the full story due to the pervasiveness of underreporting.
“Around the world, visibility at public transportation facilities vs. just ‘awareness’ fliers can bring people home before they are never found and further harmed. It’s a solution not being used yet.”
“The more you educate yourself, the more you can help others. We can't change how people respond to our growth and success. We can only change ourselves. Growth is a requirement for life; without it we do not thrive. Healing and growth require practice and repetition. Then, we begin to master the skills that let us live vs. just exist."
“We @YoungDumbBroke get that it’s uncomfortable and awkward to report suspicions, but at least try, because then that record hopefully is there forever and that kid can grow up and see that somebody cared.”
So, no matter how old you are or what role you carry in your life everyone has their own survival story . And no story is inferior than any others story.
By sharing your story you serve both a source of inspiration and also a remainder for all the people who are still struggling out there that they are not alone.
All your shared survival stories that we receive will be published on this blog.
And also all the brave survivors who will share their story will get a goody from @YoungDumbBroke
Share Your Story Now. Click Here
P.S: All the ad revenue that we get through these articles will be donated to help survivors and preventing sexual violence