How I Rose From The Ashes

***Trigger Warning***

I was born a miracle; after being aborted at 20 weeks, I was then carried 4 days past full term. My ‘mother’ didn’t want me when she got pregnant, and to this day still doesn’t. I didn’t have a fair chance at a good life, I did however have a fighting chance because I was born with a quality of triumph; resiliency.

From before I can remember I was sold for sex. I am a child sex trafficking survivor. Aside from the physical, mental, emotional, and medical neglect/abuse; I remember witnessing murders and drug deals, drug use and rape, domestic violence and child abuse. I remember being beaten and stabbed, chained and forced; I remember taking the punishment for my sisters whenever I could. I was injected with meth from the age of 5. I was tied up, chained down and restrained to endure some of the most horrendous acts; that were committed against a child. At 4, I remember knowing exactly how to please my buyer. He gave my mother $50, which meant I was to suck his dick.

Throughout my life, I tried telling people about what was happening to me. I told people at my many schools, as well as my other parent and my grandmother; these people all did what they knew to do. Report. Little did they know a lot of the officials in the town I lived were regular customers of mine; therefore reporting only made things worse for me. The officials were ‘paid’ to make the case unfounded or disappear completely. Their payment? Time with me.

This went on my entire life as a minor. *Not including the brief times when I was living with other family members.* I decided on my 18th birthday, to report one last time. To have hope in the system that failed me over and over. One. Last. Time. For myself, but mostly for my minor sisters in the home. Once again, reporting was a dead end. The restraining orders were dropped, no charges were filed, and the minors were left in the home.

I chose to be homeless at this point, instead of going back. My 18th birthday, in March, was 3 months before my high school graduation; a friend of mine and her mom let me live with them until I graduated. As I walked across the stage to get my diploma, as the first in my family, I began another journey. Homelessness.

I slept in a sleeping bag down by the river, with group of other homeless youth. I found a drop-in center that helped youth up to the age of 23. There I could get counseling, showers, help with job search or school, and food. I started intensive counseling about 2 weeks later. I was seeing my counselor nearly every day, trying to cope with my life. At this point I was self-harming almost daily. I managed to get myself enrolled in college at the local community college, as well as on a housing program waiting list. By the time I started my first term of college in late September I was staying at the adult women’s shelter, because it had started to rain consistently. The shelter allowed for only 365 nights/days of a person’s lifetime to be spent there. Then in late October I got into the housing program and spent the first night in my apartment on October 23, 2010. *Mind you this first apartment was less than 6 blocks from my mothers house.*

From October 23, 2010 until October 23, 2012, I was in this housing program while going to school at the local community college. When I started college I was so far behind in some areas that I had to start at the lowest level they offered. My reading level was that of about a 5th grader. And I have to say that is pretty damn good for someone who didn’t know how to read until the age of 10. In 5th grade, I had to walk through a park to get to and from school everyday. One day, on my way home from school, I found a psychology textbook in the trash and took it home to teach myself to read. And I did just that.

I was rescued in 2012, though I made the choice to leave. It was very much a situation where I needed out quick and under the radar. I was moved from my hometown, as a ‘safety relocation.’ – From the time I left my biological family in 2010 I had been being tortured and harassed. My apartments were broken into and I was raped at least a couple times per week. I was followed. I was kidnapped on multiple occasions. I don’t know if they wanted me back, or if they were trying to scare me [away].  I really don’t know the motives behind these actions besides to let me know she knows and sees all. She was sending a message that, until the last year or so I fully believed. The team that moved me consisted of a group of 3 women who had worked with women who had been trafficked and who were in terrible situations as I was.

After being relocated, my life changed dramatically, I was under the care of a family who I honestly thought was going to be forever my family. They even wanted to adopt me legally, to make it official. But they never did. I lived with them from June 2012-September 2014; they called me their daughter, their kids called me their sister. We did 2 interstate moves as a family and a lot of experiences I will never forget with them. They were the first people to show me what safety was, they were the first happy memory of Easter I have, they taught me a lot…but now its all gone. After living with them I realized how unhealthy they really were. They were what I knew as safety, love, and a healthy situation. They taught me what these things looked like for them. Where I came from was a whole hell of a lot less healthy than this family is, but they are not healthy either. I let them manipulate my years of counseling, so I could fill the void in my life that I had for so long. Family. They used the one thing I desperately wanted and needed, as a way in.

In September 2014, since I was only one term from graduating my Associates degree, I used that as an out to get away and on my own feet. I moved back to Portland, Oregon to graduate college. My plan was to get a job to support myself while finishing, so that I could stay there in Portland and built my life. That didn’t exactly pan out the way I planned. Love will change your life.

November 2,  I started a journey that I honestly never expected, especially at that time in my life. I was not looking for a relationship and neither was Lauren; but we both fell hard. We spent over 6,000 minutes on the phone in November alone. Her being in Texas and me in Oregon; it was our only form of connection at the time. I ended up not being able to get a job in Oregon, so I have decided it was God who allowed our relationship to become so deep at the time. I moved back to Austin in December 2014. The first few months 2015 my life did a complete 360, I got my first official paid job, moved in with my partner, I lost my family, and I fell in love. — Little did I know, this love was not healthy, nor was it real, for her at least. I was just her next victim.

In September 2015, things started to go downhill quickly. I lost a job because of the situation I was in, which made me realize…I had lost myself as well. In the beginning of the relationship I viewed the controlling nature of her words and actions as something someone who truly cared for me would do or say, because I believed what she said. I allowed myself to fall deeper and deeper into this cycle of abuse without any hesitation. When she told me things were my fault, I believed her. When she yelled or got upset, I apologized…as if it was indeed my fault. Things progressed ‘naturally’ for an abusive relationship. Loosing my job was my wake up call. That was my sign that something was wrong. That was my sign that this is not what I wanted for my life. I attempted to address some of these issues and her response was, “lets be friends.” She released me into the world; even though that’s not necessarily what I wanted at the time. I’m glad I took it as that. But what she really wanted was me to beg and plead and tell her I needed her. She wanted that control to stay in her hands. When I didn’t do those things, she got angry, more angry than ever before. Needless to say, things are over between us forever. And for the best. I hope she can find happiness and get the help she needs. Loosing your first love…definitely not the easiest thing. Most of the time when someone exits your life, in whatever fashion, it is for the best.

2016, I am turning a new leaf. This my year. My year to do what I want. To do what I need, and be who I want to be. In January I moved in with my best friend whose also my girlfriend, to the nicest place either of us have ever lived (in which we pay for). We had gone through the holidays together, I met her family, I mean her whole family [most] and both of her best friends. Then on February 14, our first Valentine’s day…she proposed. I am proud to call her my best friend, my fiance, my future wife. We got a dog in late February, and then I started what has so far been the best job I’ve ever had.

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This is a new chapter, that is just beginning so stay tuned for the drama, the excitement, and all the in between. I plan to get my drivers license when I turn 24, and I have other plans up my sleeve that you will just have to hold out and watch for! Watch me rise from the ashes!

~Sarah Birch

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