Late one Saturday night, as I sat in traffic in downtown Austin, this story came to me:
I’ll never forget what happened in that room. Well, not exactly a room, more like a bunker, a cell, prison. Not a normal kind of prison, though. Not one that closes you in with walls but one where they have a hold on your mind. It can almost be worse than a cage when they’re inside your head. Talking, always talking, telling you these horrible things, lies, and you believe them because they’re the only contact you have. Well, at least until they put you out on the street.
That’s almost refreshing because at least you can see the sun, something that you occasionally see through the tiny window near the ceiling where they keep you. And you’re so numb by that point, no, not even numb, that’s not the right word. You’re gone. You’re soulless. They own you, but not just your body, they own who you are, the deepest parts of you. You’re a robot, a trained pet playing a part. You forget that you’re human. You forget that there is something outside of this absolute living hell that you occupy every single day that there is something else beyond the blocks, the chains, the ridiculousness of it all. How can some other human being actually do this to you? Control you like a puppet, a living doll.
But this only occurs to you in those very quiet, stolen moments when you catch a glimpse of your actual self. You wonder how you got here but strangely never consider how you’ll get out because you’re so resigned to this being your life.
You are sold.
This was the beginning of my deep exploration of human sex trafficking in the United States and the start of the “Artifacts” exhibition. From the short narrative came an experimental photo shoot with Geoff Hammond which ultimately led to the creation of my isolation room, a 3-D, free-standing piece painted white on the outside to appear hidden in plain sight, just as many trafficking victims are.
The people I have met on this journey and the interest surrounding this exhibition give me hope that the message about the atrocities of this industry are spreading and the forces to fight trafficking are growing. If you would like to learn more about working with a group in your area, please visit our partners page. –ASK