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The Thin Line between Trafficking and Pornography


Nov 2 2011
Trafficking survivor Jessica Richardson talks about the connection in her own life.

When a pimp approached 16-year-old Jessica Richardson at the Portland diner where she was working in 1995, Jessica was primed to accept his offer. She had been sexually abused at age 5, and then her dad was murdered when she was 10. "I desperately needed to be accepted and loved. And when I didn't have my father and was already used to being sexually exploited, it just seemed to fit that all I was good for was sex," says Richardson.

Soon after meeting the "incredibly charming man," Richardson was turned out, first in Portland, then at sporting events and hotels up and down the I-5 corridor, the West Coast's track for trafficking. After 15 months of the nightmare, then an unplanned pregnancy, Richardson fled her pimp at age 18.

Now a Christian and member of City Bible Church in east Portland, she is one of the best-known survivors in the city, speaking to churches and schools to expose the lie that says anyone is only good for sex and testify to Christ's transforming love and acceptance.

On site in Portland, CT video producer Nathan Clarke and associate editor Katelyn Beaty spoke with Richardson about her story of survival, documented in a stunning short film for CT's This Is Our City project. Richardson spoke of the connection between trafficking and pornography, the multibillion-dollar-a-year industry, 89 percent of which is created in the United States. Her story impresses upon Christians the importance of treating pornography as more than a personal discipleship issue.
You experienced the sex industry from the inside out. How does that experience change the way you see it?

All around us we see this glamorized image of the sex industry. We see that it's something amazing, this "porn star lifestyle." What we're seeing is just the surface. We don't see the damage that is really happening, that the sex industry really is trafficking, that the vast majority of people that are in the sex industry as a whole are there because they were sexually abused as children, that they didn't have any other option or choice.

A pimp got to them when they were young … when they were a young teenager and he sexually exploited them, and they found themselves just like me, with nowhere else to go and no other hope. And you know that money is hard to come by. So instead of running to Christ, sometimes we stay in the abuse, because there is no other option and because it does appear glamorous.

Our culture has created this myth that the sex industry is appealing, that you'll be beautiful and that you're sexy and you're attractive. They don't show the horrifying nature of being raped day in and day out.

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