Sex trafficking survivor speaks to Lane students
Maranda Faris, The Jackson Sun 5:17 p.m. CDT October 21, 2015
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(Photo: C.B. SCHMELTER/The Jackson Sun)
At 13, Elaine Richardson was on the streets as a victim of human sex trafficking after a boyfriend began selling the teenager as a prostitute.
“I didn’t know then, of course. But when I look back over my life, I can see that I had some spiritual wounds at a young age,” Richardson said. “I was always looking for validation — outside validation.”
Richardson said her low self-esteem as a child led her to the relationship, as well as a prior relationship which resulted in an aborted pregnancy from a rape.
“I wasn’t pretty. My hair was too short; I was fat,” she said. “The first man to show me some attention raped me, and I became pregnant from that rape.”
THE JACKSON SUN
VIDEO: Dr. Elaine Richardson Speaks at Lane
Richardson said her first boyfriend was a pimp, who employed an older woman who helped Richardson. Richardson said once her boyfriend was arrested, she returned to school, graduating from middle and high school, and going on to college.
“I didn’t know he was a pimp, but he showed me some attention,” she said. “I would do anything for him just to have that. He was my boyfriend, and he loved me, and I would do anything to have that. So, I got into the street life at 13.”
Eventually, Richardson left college and returned to the streets after failing her classes.
“I was able to finish high school and go to college, but I still had that gaping wound. Even though I was in college, I didn’t know what to do,” she said. “I got back into the street life again after I got kicked out of college.”
Richardson said several near-death encounters, addictions to drugs, and time in and out of jail left her alone in a hospital after the birth of her second child.
“The whole ugliness of it all, it took me almost to die — and I almost got killed several times — before I just got to that place where I couldn’t even fight anymore,” she said.
While in the hospital, Richardson said a woman from a local advocacy center met with her. Richardson said she was disconnected from her children, both from men she didn’t know, when the woman came in her room and held her hand.
“I’m in there, and I’m at my lowest point,” she said. “I just remember this nice little white girl who was in the graduate program and a social worker. She came and held my hand that day. She just kept telling me I was a good person and that my child loved me.”
After her second child was born, Richardson said she stepped back from the “street life,” and went back to college.
She now has a Ph.D. in linguistics and has written a book on her life, “PHD to Ph. D.” She said her education helped save her life.
“In this world, you need an education,” she said. “It’s the way society uses to differentiate among people. You get written off if you can’t present yourself in a certain way.”
Lane College historian, coordinator of cultural events, and adviser of the Lane chapter of the NAACP Ameera Graves said Richardson’s book caught her attention after hearing Richardson on a talk show.
“I immediately thought of our Lane students,” she said. “I looked her up and immediately ordered four copies of her book on Amazon and sent them to recent graduates.”
Graves said she hoped students would hear Richardson’s story and it would resonate with them, and reinforce a belief that they can overcome obstacles.
“No matter what comes down the pike — and many challenges will come, many challenges are before them as we speak — they have to stay focused and they have to trust that people will come in their life to help them overcome their hurdles,” she said.
Reach Maranda at (731) 425-9657. Follow her on Twitter: @MarandaFaris