In part one of our conversation with the wonderfully captivating and remarkably candid Emily Cheree we talked about how she got into the world of sex trafficking. In part two we talk about how she got out of that world, her feelings toward men and the pornography industry.
EC: I don’t think I have ever actually told anyone other than my therapist the full story.
I begged to go home for weeks And was refusing to work. They eventually told me if I paid for it myself somehow I could leave. So I called my mom but didn’t tell her what was really going on.
He made me call on speaker and j could not talk to her without him being there. I asked her to buy me a train ticket home. And she kept asking why and I just said I was ready to go home but wouldn’t go in detail.
She bought it but when I got home I did not feel welcomed. They were like badgering me with questions and I didn’t feel comfortable telling them the truth and felt like I didn’t belong so I went back. I called them and said I was ready to take it serious and they bought me a ticket back. I got a new ID before leaving and hid it. They were in CA by this time but I was treated worse so after maybe two months I wanted out again.
The first major city we went to was San Diego for another recruitment. They dropped us off at a strip club to find more girls and lure them to our hotel. I warned one of the girls and told her what was really going on. She was in her forties and said she had been in the industry long enough to see the suspicion and she wanted to help me get out. She wrote down her number and told me to call her once everyone was asleep and that she would pick me up. So I did.
I left everything behind. She called the sex trafficking line for me and asked if I was willing to dance to save up money until I could start fresh. I said yes and she said she had a friend I could stay with. So I flew to Oregon. He bought my ticket and said I could pay him back. He ended up being a pimp as well. Except I wasn’t having sex with men. I was dancing and he would take my money after each shift.
When work slowed down he said I would have to be put on backpage to make more money. He let me have a work cell phone to save customers numbers if they gave me a certain amount of money. One I kept in touch with I developed feelings for. We would secretly Skype and text and one night my pimp tried raping me and I called him and asked him to come get me. He lived in San Jose and drove to Portland a few days later. I snuck out while my pimp was in the shower and stayed at one of the other dancers house until he came to get me and he drove me back to San Jose with him.
TS: Wow. You actually touched know something that I came across. Women go back a lot of times. That feeling of not belonging in your old life. It has to be one of the more painful experiences. And this whole time your family and friends never knew what was going on?
EC: It took me two years to face my family. I lost touch with 90% of my friends. Of all of them only one from childhood I am still friends with and my parents still do not understand and think I wanted all of it to happen and enjoyed it.
My sister had an idea. And she told my family but I denied it. She actually did research on it and that’s partially why I felt so uncomfortable because their approach was awful. In no way we’re they comforting
TS: How long ago was all of this?
EC: Almost 5 years ago.
TS: Five years later and you’re still dealing with the fall out on the family side.
EC: My sister is the only supportive one. My parents are not and my brothers are not.
TS: Do you keep in touch with any of the girls?
EC: Nope. None of them had phones to even keep in contact.
TS: How did this affect your feelings toward men?
EC: I have BPD (Bi Polar Disorder) and PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). My initial reaction is that I am still open and don’t hold this against any men. But any time I get close to one I go crazy.
TS: I’ve had a lot of friends in the adult and sex industry. And it seems like the one constant thing that they all say is that their view of men has drastically changed. Would you say the same thing?
EC: You know what not really. I think I understand men more if anything but not really like I view them differently.
TS: So, I know typically everyone wants to ask you about the worst experience you had, and I think it’s important to talk about that. We’ll definitely get to that, too. But I’d rather first ask you about any positive experiences or memories you have from that time? If any.
EC: I learned how to get money without actually having to have sex. Towards the end a lot of the sugar daddy type guys just wanted company. One of my favorite experiences was one I spent the weekend with in Sacramento on his yacht. No sex. Just took me shopping and I got to lay out and do nothing for a few days. He took me four- wheeling and I felt…normal.
Also one was a man who worked for NASA and we just laid outside in the grass for a few hours and he spoke about astronomy.
TS: Some people just want to feel loved.
TS: Ever have any scary run ins with the law?
EC: We were pulled over once but nothing happened. Another girl and me were stopped for solicitation but we just denied it and they gave us a warning. At a hotel once a fight broke out and a few people were stabbed so they just had us stay inside and pretty much avoid police to avoid questioning.
“We don’t watch movies and assume people want to be murdered.”
TS: Before all of this what were your feelings toward sex?
EC: I think I appreciate sex more. I’m still young but I was younger-ER. So I didn’t have experience or knowledge. That’s a tough one (laughs).
TS: What do you think needs to be done to put an end to sex trafficking?
EC: One. Police need better training. And two, there needs to be more awareness. Three, they need to charge pimps and clients. Here the women get in trouble .
TS: Do you think there’s room for a regulated sex industry here in the states like they have elsewhere? Not that those places are without their own issues.
EC: But I think it would need to be kind of like the Bunny Ranches. Where you must be ID’d and business card and both parties are tested. The problem is even those can have girls have pimps or be forced. So they’d need to do something to ensure its not the case.
TS: What role, if any, do you think the porn industry plays in sex trafficking?
EC: Hmm…that is a tough one. One of my issues with Porn is a lot of the scenes will be “luring girls” or “forcing them while acting reluctant.” So men really think that’s OK and that’s what women want. The whole “no means yes yes means anal.” Many girls from abused pasts go into porn. So even if it is totally by choice it’s coming from a place of instability.
TS: I just watched a documentary on that. It’s called Adult Entertainment: Disrobing An American Idol It’s about how Porn shifts perceptions in males and females. It essentially leads to men devaluing woman. That’s the hypothesis of the movie. Not certain I completely agree with that premise. But porn is definitely responsible for young males thinking that women want or deserve forcible sex.
EC: I just feel like we as people should know better. We don’t watch movies and assume people want to be murdered.
TS: Good point. But unfortunately a lot of young kids are being taught sex ed by Porn. It changes expectations. Not that it’s the cause, but I can see it being a contributing factor. You said before that you have PTSD. How has that manifested itself?
EC: I do a lot better now but for awhile anytime I would see white vans without logos I would get anxiety. Or if like pimps approach me. The hardest thing is. I still to do this day think about going back. Or get on myself about leaving. Usually when I’m in a stressful situation.
TS: I was going to ask you that. A lot of people probably fund that hard to believe. Why would you want to go back?
Stay tuned for the final part of my very candid and open conversation with Emily. And if you, or someone you know, is being forced into sex work, please Call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888.