I realize this article is long, but PLEASE take the time to read this. It’s SO important to understand what is going in Atlanta…because it’s serious. It happens everyday…and your child….your friends could be in great danger.
I AM Katelyn
At the age of 16, bleeding, broken, stabbed and HIV positive, “I ran, but this time I guess I just didn’t run fast enough,” said Katelyn, a child sex slave.
Captured and raped at the age of eight from Moldova, Katelyn and her younger sister were forced into a trunk, taken to London, and then shipped to America where she was forced into prostitution. Overnight Katelyn went from living a life defined as a daughter and a sister to a life exploited by an international prostitution ring.
Based on tradition, if Katelyn had returned to Moldova, a small country between Russia and Romania, she would have been thrown into prison or killed. Marked as trash, her only option was to continue with the one who captured her.
Told that if she behaved well she would not be beaten or deported, Katelyn was made a fake ID and handed papers granting her access into America, and furthermore stripping from her the innocence of her childhood. At this point the joy of living life turned into the uninvited struggle for survival.
Katelyn said it was then that she learned her first lesson about life; it’s all about survival. Somehow finding the strength to fight and the ability to perform as they wished, Katelyn continued on, but her sister didn’t; she was killed.
Katelyn continued to perform her tasks and meet her quotas, which kept her pimp from beating her. “I got really good at it,” she said. “That’s when he sent me on trips to Canada and Mexico to work.”
After about 5 years, of traveling and performing sexual duties in different cities, Katelyn was relocated to Atlanta in 2006 to live and work exclusively. While in Atlanta, she contracted HIV, turning her into a poor commodity for her pimp. It was then that the beatings began. “I can’t tell you how many fractures and bruises I have had over the eight years I have been in this country”, Katelyn said. “But most importantly, I’ve always managed to survive.”
With little faith in herself, given her situation, the one thing she believed she could do was run. After several attempts at escaping, which always led to bruises and broken bones, Katelyn heard the walls crying out for her.
Etched into a bathroom wall in a shelter where she stopped to clean herself were the words GET OUT NOW followed by an 800 number. “God I wanted to get out,” Katelyn said. “I was tired of digging into garbage cans for food and going to shelters to bathe.”
The call was made, her path for freedom was discovered and she was ready to run, but she didn’t know how far she would get. After speaking with the woman on the other end of the phone, Katelyn felt encouraged and redirected toward freedom.
A mere 5’4 and 82 pounds, Katelyn was sick and frail, yet she was determined to survive. Beginning her three-day journey across three states with no food, Katelyn found herself exchanging sexual deeds for bus tickets.
Along her journey she was beaten and stabbed, but that didn’t stop her from running. Survival was her goal and the only way she knew how to achieve it was to run.
Just three hours away from the recovery home and about to board her last bus to freedom, the bus driver realized Katelyn was sick, and instead of allowing her to board the bus, he sent for medical help. Help that she desperately needed, yet time that she couldn’t spare.
In fear and urgency, she escaped and continued to run. After phoning her rescuer she was informed that help was only 20 minutes away. For the next 20 minutes Katelyn ran faster than she ever had. “I had to get to her [the recovery director],” she said. “But most importantly I had to get away from him.”
In those 20 minutes right before her help arrived, Katelyn’s journey for survival came to a tragic end; her pimp caught her for the last time. Keeping her captive in a car and beating her, he broke her collarbone, both legs and her jaw before leaving her in a dumpster. “I ran as fast as I could,” she said. “I really did. I am so sorry, but I couldn’t run fast enough.”
Upon the discovery of her body in the dumpster where she was left to die, she was returned to the hospital where she passed away 8 hours later. In her last words to the woman that was coming to rescue her she said. “Whatever you do, please don’t forget me.”
On February 2nd, just a week before her 17th birthday, a Memorial service will be held in Katelyn’s honor at 2 PM at St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church in Atlanta, Georgia.
Strung together by the thread of remembrance, community leaders, politicians, celebrities, not-for profit organizations and the media will gather in conjunction with the community to honor a life spent running for survival.
No longer will her running be in vain. Although her physical survival is no longer possible, her heroic attempt to escape child sex trafficking will now be seen as footsteps for all those who feel too weak to run.