Trina describes herself as the kind of young woman who has always attracted older men.
“Anywhere I would go,” she said, “I was just a magnet for creeps.”
She was diagnosed with precocious puberty at 5 and said her body’s accelerated development accounts for the older men in her life: “Always, older men were trying to talk to me because I looked older.”
Born the middle child of five to a mother who struggled to make ends meet with a government wage, Trina was never going to have an easy time growing up in Sacramento, Calif. She was raped repeatedly between the ages of 4 and 7 by a relative. When the fights with her mother started, Trina started running away.
It was just the beginning of a too-common tale of childhood abuse leading young girls into a forced life of prostitution, particularly in Oakland, which is recognized as the West Coast hub of human trafficking, including sexual exploitation. Experts estimate that 50 to 100 girls, many of them underage, line the city’s International Boulevard each night.
Children who, like Trina, suffer from abusive relationships early in life are often unable to recognize or engage in healthy relationship behaviors and are at higher risk of entering violent or exploitative relationships, according to a report by the WestCoast Children’s Clinic.