Rainey stood in front of an auditorium-style classroom Tuesday at University South Florida, St. Petersburg and bravely told her story. She was first sold for sex by her father at 3 years old, and trafficked throughout her entire childhood. “I thought it was normal for adults to have sex with kids,” she began. “I never knew I was a victim.”
It seemed that Rainey lived two very different lives growing up. She lived with an Italian Catholic family where her father was admired and respected and she worked hard in school, so no one would have ever suspected the horror she faced at home. She endured body inspections and lineups, suffered beatings, was locked in closets, and threatened to keep her quiet. In order to survive, she had to be on her best behavior.
Rainey’s body was sold to the kind of men and women children are typically told to trust: Doctors, lawyers, businessmen, teachers and even a police officer. It became hard for Rainey to trust anyone. Fear of being punished for speaking out pushed her into silence and submission. “I hid my pain behind a perfect smile and perfect body,” Rainey recalled. “It was easier to not cause problems and continue being the perfect kid.”
Rainey’s father made up to a million dollars a year trafficking her until she was 17, which was when she ran away from home. Even though she was finally free, she felt lost.“I felt like an animal that was cast out in the streets,” she said.
Rainey said that she is still haunted by her childhood. She experiences flashbacks and nightmares, but has come a very long way in the last 20 years. She is now the co-founder of Bikers Against Trafficking, an addiction and clinical trauma therapist, a biker, and a survivor. “I have found God as I know Him,” she said. Rainey is not her real name, but an alias she uses when telling her story.
Bikers Against Trafficking (BAT) is stationed in Orlando and takes a unique approach to preventing sex trafficking. According to federal law, sex trafficking is a commercial sex act that is induced by force, fraud or coercion. It is also the harboring, transportation, or obtaining of a person and subjection of that person to involuntary servitude. Florida ranks third in the nation for human trafficking according to floridahealth.gov. Tampa ranks number one in trafficking, and Orlando ranks second in the state.
As a 501(c)3 nonprofit, BAT believes that bikers are the “eyes and ears” of a community and are more likely to see individuals being sold for sex. The organization also raises awareness of what sex trafficking looks like.
“It is not the glamorous-looking pimp with gold teeth and chains. It is not always like the movie Taken where girls in foreign countries are being handcuffed to beds. Anyone can be a trafficker and no one is exempt from being a victim,” Rainey explained. “Sex trafficking is slavery, manipulation of self-worth.”
Though it may sound simple, education on the signs and symptoms of victims and discussing the possible grooming or manipulation tactics used by traffickers could be a key prevention strategy.
BAT speaks all across Florida, informing churches, groups, organizations, mental health gatherings, state departments and colleges about the potential signs of a sex trafficking victim. They train people to notice sudden changes in behavior, like wearing new clothes, dressing provocatively, or new and unusual tattoos or marks. If these signs are present, Rainey said the best option is to call a sex trafficking hotline – this helps build evidence for a potential sex trafficking case.
BAT also has a unique housing plan for sex trafficking survivors, which fosters a sense of identity for survivors. “A survivor is given time to reflect on who she really is – she can explore personal taste in decoration, favorite color, or even a favorite food,” said BAT member Robert. Currently, BAT’s housing program holds 24 people; it has helped an average of 19 clients per week, and 113 clients this year alone. But because sex trafficking is such a prevalent issue in the state of Florida, they are constantly seeking donations.
Visit BAT’s website, https://bikersagainsttrafficking.org/ to donate or get involved. The national sex trafficking hotline is (888) 373 7888.