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Sex trafficking survivors say even in #MeToo era they struggle to be heard

New York Daily News

Nikki Bell was 16 years old the first time she had sex for money. Her mother had recently died, she became addicted to drugs and alcohol, and soon thereafter, wound up in the arms of a pimp.

For 10 years, she was paid to be sexually assaulted multiple times a day in an industry that normalizes and thrives on exploitation.

“You are trying to survive at this point in your life, which is why most people enter into prostitution. Because they are at an economic disadvantage,” Bell, 37, told the Daily News.

She disputes the notion that choices existed for people like her.

“It wasn’t empowering. It was, if I don’t engage in oral sex, I am going to get my head kicked in, I am going to starve,” she said. “It’s only a choice if you have choices.”

Advocates and survivors of commercial sexual exploitation say the industry is fueled by the same sense of entitlement Hollywood producers use to coerce aspiring actresses into sex. Yet victims do not feel like they are included in or represented by the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements targeting abuse and sexism.

“In the midst of the #MeToo movement, sex trafficking seems to stay in the shadows,” said Shandra Woworuntu, who became a victim at 25.

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