There are some things about C’s situation on Monday that didn’t hit me until later, days later. I didn’t have time to think about them and they were painful and I had other pain to sort through.

I knew the men who posted porn on her wall were the stupid ones. The clever ones would have groomed her first. That’s what scared me more than anything. But it hadn’t quite clicked that of the 700 or so men who flocked to her Facebook, at least one of them was probably a trafficker, and this is now how traffickers operate. They groom girls to leave their homes and their families and their communities and whatever scrap of safety that provides them and then they establish complete control over their lives.

What occurred to me later, after realizing this, is that I saw the other side of this. I saw what happened on the other side of that door. I saw that girls who would otherwise elicit some protection and care from society stopped getting any. I saw that they were free to come and go—like other girls, they went shopping, they went for ice cream. They were not locked up or kept chained indoors, and yet there was no other safe place to run to. No one made a safe place for them. The traffickers had so much power because everyone else ceased to care.

It’s true that children see their abusers as more powerful than the abuser really is, but I think the abuser often does have a great deal more power than they otherwise would, because society abandons these children. You walk through a door at some point in the grooming process and you become someone many ordinary people no longer see as worthwhile. I think this not because of how I was treated, but because I saw how the girls were treated. I saw the looks on the street. I saw the treatment the sales clerks gave them. I saw parents holding the hands of their little girls tighter, like we might be something contagious.

You become the province of activists, instead of society at large.

It’s what keeps former victims silent. You never know what the door will be for someone, or when others might see you as no longer a human being with dignity and worth.

The scary part for me of what happened on Monday was seeing C so close to the door.

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