by Tiffany Simpson, Advocacy Lab Associate, Karana Rising
I used to think of justice, or rather, injustice in terms of the law only. I was often trapped in my own story. So, how did the police mistreat me? How did prosecutors in my case ignore this mistreatment and continue to advocate for a child victim of sex trafficking to be sentenced to 30 years in jail? What rights of mine were violated? I felt justice was not in my control.
Yet, creating a just world actually is something we all must participate in if we want a world where we all have the same access. I have learned, I can not be passive in my own path toward justice. In fact, it’s with fighting for myself that I can actually begin to heal, even behind bars. It’s my only true path to freedom.
I can only speak to my own experience in many ways but I’ve also been reading up on the issue of sex trafficking and how certain policies or even societal norms can lead to either justice or injustice for survivors. Here is something that shocks me. There are 1.2 million children and youth who are estimated to be sexually exploited each year globally. I can’t really begin to tell you what it’s like to be one of them. Or, to know that you fit into this statistic that almost feels unreal. Yet, I lived it.
I might be behind the times here because, you know, jail will do that to you. However, how is it that our President owned a resort where girls as young as 16 were giving adult men massages? Even I have figured out that it is not legal to be a massage therapist if you are under 18 years old.
It is at this very resort where alleged sex trafficker Ghislaine Maxwell and now deceased trafficker Jeffrey Epstein groomed and recruited many of their young victims into the world of sex trafficking. Meanwhile, Epstein was friends with President Trump, Bill Clinton and many men and women in power. This was so out in the open that you just can google for photos. Now, these girls are fighting for their own justice, in many ways, just like me. No one believed them at first just like no one believed me. You see, the real jail is the one in our minds that for so long led us to stay silent for fear of being disbelieved or even worse.
So, in my mind, it’s really no wonder why some people might think that store Wayfair might be trafficking kids or that famous people like Tom Hanks could be part of some trafficking ring. I just learned that, Leon Black, man who bankrolled Jeffrey Epstien’s defense was a trustee to the Museum of Modern Art and invested in companies like Hostess (they make Twinkies, people). So, it’s sometimes hard to know what is true. I can tell you one thing that is: American children are still arrested for prostitution while wealthy and not so wealthy (aka average pimps) men who buy and sell them walk free.
We keep hearing wild stories of famous political men being involved in this massive wealthy sex trafficking ring that involved federal prosectors, law professors, former and current presidents. Then, you hear stuff like Hillary Clinton helped pay for the legal defense of sex offender Harvey Weinstein who abused countless famous women and no one did anything. Then, you have this firm called Boies Schiller who both helped protect Harvey Weinstein while also saying they wanted to provide legal services to sex trafficking victims sold on backpage.com. I’ve also learned that the New York District Attorney, Cyrus Vance, who has also spoken at international conferences, was the one who tried to helped protect Jeffrey Epstein from being registered as as a sex offender.
I’ve also learned most victims of sex trafficking in the United States were first either physically or sexually abused or at minimum neglected at home. Many come from poverty and most are girls of color. Where was the justice system when they were, like me, coming in and out of court? Where was the school system when these kids were not showing up to class or showing up tired and dirty? Where was the child welfare system when these kids came in and out of foster care? What about defense attorneys who never asked why their client kept running away or where they were going when they were gone?
What I am saying is that systems often fail. Now, survivors like me are rising up for our own justice. We can’t wait around hoping someone will help.
So, I’m telling you about my past so you can help it not be repeated in the lives of other girls. I’m using the injustice done, and still being done, to me so that you might believe others before they end up in jail, like me, for crimes done to them by their traffickers. That is why I am an advocacy lab associate at Karana Rising where we support survivors for life.
If you believe me and want to make a difference, I want you to use your voice. Yes, I want you to sign my petition for clemency, but I also want you to share this story and others like it. Let’s not wait for the system. Let’s create justice together for all survivors.
Writing from behind bars but still free,
Tiffany Simpson, Advocacy Lab Associate, Karana Rising
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