Dreams and lies – Julie’s story
Julie came back to school at the beginning of the year. I first saw her again when she came by my house selling tamales in the neighborhood. She was one of the teen moms where I work, strapped with the difficult task of finishing high school while raising a beautiful boy. But she’d disappeared from school and dropped out of our loop. The first thing I noticed was the tattoos.
“Hi Mr. Williams, do you want any tamales?” She was holding back tears. We talked and she told me her story. “I’ve been away, I had some problems, I got involved with a bad guy,” she said, her voice shaking, “but I’m back now. I want to do right for my son, and I want to help other girls in my situation.” I gave her a hug, bought some tamales, and told her I’d see her at school.
Julie had left school to work as a prostitute, coerced into the business by an aggressive pimp and real need. This is how she tells it:
“I was naive, didn’t know what I was getting into. I needed money and I had no support. The guys sell you a dream, they get girls at 18 on the Internet, Facebook, false websites, promises for a great life, but it’s not real. I was so traumatized, had many near death experiences, I was scared of everyone, like everyone was out to get me. I want to tell my story so other girls know that it’s not the way to go, it was a horrible experience, there are so many other ways to get money.”
Four months later the tattoos are going away thanks to the Clean Slate program in Santa Rosa. Julie has completed a semester of culinary class at Sonoma Valley High School while finishing her Creekside graduation requirements, and she has registered for classes next semester at the SRJC.
Culinary degree first, psychology classes next, so she can help other girls find their way to good futures. Her boy is beautiful as ever.
Julie can talk about it now. She has a plan and a good support team and, most importantly, she is making the right choices. Sadly, her story is only one of many.
Julie told me of three other girls from the local community who are currently involved in the business.
There is a website for an escort service that posts pictures and groups the girls by type. One of the girls is seven months pregnant.
“Nothing we can do about it,” was the answer I got from local law enforcement, “if the girl is over 18 she’s an adult and she can make her own choices.”
I don’t like that answer, I always thought prostitution was illegal. Who are these pimps who prey on fragile young girls and who are the johns who make the whole enterprise profitable?
“These girls have no support, they’re brainwashed,” she says. “They don’t know what it means when they get involved. Then it’s too late.”
Julie wanted me to use her real name for this story. If telling the truth helps even one girl make a better choice, it’s worth it to Julie. “Some girls have no family, no connections, no support system. I want to tell my story because no one should go through what I went through.”
Julie is back. But what about the others? If you know someone in need, please contact Verity in Santa Rosa at ourverity.org.
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Walt Williams is in his 14th year of teaching at Creekside High School in Sonoma.