By Eden Allegretti
International House (I-House) is a residential community on UCSD’s campus that houses domestic and international students and organizes programs which foster multicultural curiosity and understanding. Global Forums which explore topics of international and local interest are held weekly in the Great Hall. The following information was discussed at the Global Forum on Jan. 24, 2018. Marjorie was a panel speaker at this event.
Marjorie Saylor holds many labels: a mom, a believer, a business woman and a survivor. Marjorie is a survivor of human trafficking, and she shared her powerful story at the Human Trafficking in San Diego Global Forum. Marjorie was first sexually abused at the age of five and was a witness to her mother being physically abused by her stepfather. Later, she was raped by a neighborhood boy. Not knowing how to deal with this abuse, Marjorie ran away at the age of 15, saying that she “didn’t know where she belonged.” After being forced to live in a drug house, Marjorie was offered a job at a moving company when she was 18. She developed a sense of trust and community in her new work environment, but she discovered that her boss oversaw a drug operation and was later arrested for $450,000 worth of marijuana possession. She said she had “no idea that this person I had trusted and that was so good to me, had this side to him. Then, my mind just went back to where I had come from.”
The place she had come from consisted of repressed memories of sexual, physical and mental abuse that taught her to believe sex was how to demonstrate love for another. At the age of 21, the club she was working at started trafficking her and she was “no longer viewed as a person, but as a product” that her traffickers owned. After years of forced trafficking, she met a sex buyer that tried to kill her, and she realized that if she continued this life, she would die. Fortunately, she was with a committed partner who helped her escape her traffickers, and she was able to rejoin society. She started her own business but used it as a mechanism to compartmentalize the emotional aftereffects of her abuse, trafficking and trauma. This left her emotionally vulnerable to another trafficker.
Her last trafficker compelled her to believe that the only way to accomplish her dreams was to relinquish everything to him: her bank account, her car, her business and her soul. A few months into the relationship his charm left, and she realized she didn’t know the man she had given everything to. Her trafficker threatened to harm her family if she tried to escape, and a few months later when she was pregnant he began to beat her and force her to use drugs. At that point, she tried to gain the strength to commit suicide, but for the first time in seventeen years, she thought to pray and reached out to the God of her childhood. She prayed that her child would be healthy and not harmed by the drugs, abuse and beatings that she was subject to daily. Her prayer was heard, and her daughter was born completely healthy. Marjorie said that after this, she “knew that there was a higher power.”
However, they were both still living with Marjorie’s trafficker. She remembers that her daughter “was 11 months old when she started reacting to the abuse that was happening to me, and I saw my life as a child flash before my eyes. It was July 17, 2013, and he had me on the ground and his fists were raised. He hit me, and all I remember was her scream ‘Mommy! Mommy!’. She was standing next to me with tears running down her cheeks and that was it. All I could focus on was her.” Immediately after this tipping point for Marjorie, she escaped her final trafficker, got back on her feet and started sharing her story. She is now the CEO of her own nonprofit, The Well Path, that works to assimilate victims of human trafficking back into society through the help of support groups, mentorship and education.
Marjorie’s story is only one of thousands of women, men and children that have been subject to human trafficking. Per year in San Diego alone, there are anywhere from 3417-8018 victims of sex trafficking, and only 100 of those victims receive the social services they need after they have endured the abuse. San Diego is one of the largest centers for human trafficking in the nation due to its proximity to the border, tourism, military bases and its many methods of transportation. As a trafficker, the incentive to stay in the business is the profit; they make an average of over $670,000 per year in San Diego and the net value of the human trafficking industry in San Diego is close to $810,000,000 per year.
The demand within this ‘industry’ are the sex buyers, and in California, the penalties of being a sex buyer have increased thanks to Prop-35. This bill heightened fines and jail time for buyers and forced human traffickers to register as sex offenders. The criminal justice system has slowly transitioned to treating people that have been trafficked as victims rather than criminals. Because of this, lawyers have been allowed more leeway to clear a victim’s criminal record to give them a fresh start or change their names for safety reasons.
San Diego has taken many valuable steps towards ending human trafficking, but there is still much work to be done. Marjorie stresses that education is the most important tool, and that instituting educational programs on human trafficking in schools would be a great leap forward in the movement. Others stressed the importance of always speaking up and calling the National Human Trafficking Hotline (1-888-373-7888) if you suspect someone is being trafficked.
As I look back on the forum and reflect on this topic, Marjorie’s story is what fills my mind. At the beginning of the event she told us that being trafficked is “devastating to your soul and to your dignity.” As I sat down to interview her after the forum, I noticed that Marjorie was holding hands with two other women (one of them a victim of human trafficking herself) and praying. Even after all Marjorie has been through, she is able to share her story and empower other women to become survivors. To end human trafficking, we must remember her story and work to help victims become survivors, just like Marjorie.