Fifth Exposure: Fulton County Shelter ( Age 17)
This one is quick. Basically, Fulton County Dfacs shelter which was on a street that used to be called Stewart Avenue (now metropolitan parkway). Stewart avenue was prostitution central in Atlanta. The shelter had a huge campus. A huge campus that pimps were free to come on to recruit and pick up girls to work in prostitution central.
It wasn’t a secret. I don’t think the staff was in on it, as horrible as most of them were. I think they were just underpaid and disgruntled and not in the position where they were willing to risk their lives to tell some gang banging pimp to go away. I don’t even think they reported the girls as runways when they did disappear.
As I remember, we were supposed to stay inside like 24/7 except when walking in groups to the cafeteria and school. I don’t remember us ever really going outside except twice and that was for school recess a few years prior when I was first sent to the shelter from a group home (and that was a whole other nightmare).
There were rumors about the pimps roaming the campus. I thought the girls were full of shit to be frankly honest. But one day I was out being the typical jackass I would become when I had been in a shelter so long I acclimated to the environment. I was walking back from going to get a bag of chips at the convenience store across the road, I was with another girl. There was a well dressed yet thuggish looking guy that spotted me. He was like “aye girl, what yall doin out”
I was like, getting some chips. He was like “let me holla at you shawty. Want to make some green? Me and the girl I was with were nervously exchanging glances, knowing full damn well what was happening but not wanting to believe it was happening.
The guy was like, “I’m talkin to ya’ll you can’t talk now?”
Me and the girl start walking towards the dorm trying to ignore the guy. Dude starts calling out “why you actin scary, I’m just tryin to holla at you” I stuttered “I have AIDS” as we scurried towards the door to the girl’s dorm.
A staff member poked her head out of the door and asked the man if he needed something. He, unafraid of her presence yelled out “bitch mind your fucking business.”
The staff member didn’t address what she just witnessed. She didn’t call the cops, at least not that I know of. I can say the whole experience put it in perspective why the staff flipped out when me and another older girl made the same walk to the store with a 13-year-old and came back to threats that if we took her with us again that they’d have me arrested for contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
Sixth Exposure: Oliver Twist (Age 18 or 19)
There was a boy, he had the name of a famous 90s singer. I’ll call him Justin Timberlake cause whenever someone mentioned his name they had to clarify that he was not “the gay singer.” He looked like a young Charlie Hunam/Travis Fimmel. Since we didn’t have these guys as our frame of reference back then, everyone just said he looked like Brad Pitt even though he didn’t. He wanted to be a veterinarian and planned to pay for his way through vet school with modeling. He loved animals.
He had a thick country accent. Super thick. He was one of those kids from rural Georgia displaced into metro Atlanta and separated from everyone and everything he knew. So when he ended up on the streets shortly after turning 16, he was a sitting duck.
He had been molested by parents in at least 2 foster homes. It messed with his head. I wouldn’t find out how much till much later. He ended up on the streets maybe a year after I did and by this point, he was staying with me in my ultra-drama filled the first apartment. To be honest, he was the source of most of the drama. Justin wasn’t the best guy in the world. At times he was a right fuckwad who made me miserable.
He came to live with me after I got my first apartment. He was one of like 19 kids who I felt I just HAD to save. I’d watched my best friend get killed a year prior and I was super clingy to my friends. So when I first ran back into Justin and saw what had become of him, I felt I had to help him.
He was living in a motel with a 40-year-old biracial dude named Conrad. I’m using his real name because fuck that guy. He had about 5 or 6 boys living in his motel room. All cast away foster kids he was proclaiming to take care of. They were like that gang from Oliver Twist, robbing people and burglarizing stores for him. They also sold drugs for him. He also had most of them strung out on cocaine.
Justin was so strung out, his good looks were faded behind sunken dark circles around his eyes. His already fair Irish skin was ghostly pale. I remember him licking the cocaine shards off a CD case and rubbing the shards across his teeth. I had to get him out of there.
So despite all the hell, this dude had put me through at the time (long story for another day), I convinced him to come live with me when I got my own apartment maybe 4 months later. He was the first of the 19 foster and street kids that would end up staying with me. I had a revolving door of societal castaways. . About a month or so into him staying with me Conrad comes over and doesn’t leave. I didn’t like Conrad because I thought he was a predator. I didn’t realize how much of a predator he was.
Justin and my relationship was contentious to say the least. We fought, a lot. In one super major drag-out fight after Justin called me a concubine and some sharp tongued words from me in response resulted in him throwing something at me. Conrad grabbed Justin by the back of the neck and pulled Justin’s face to his to where they are forehead to forehead. He then said he wasn’t going to stand there and let him treat a black woman like that. Conrad pointed at me and says “this is the mother of your child, you can’t treat her like that.”
Okay without going into too much detail, Justin was the kind of guy that has sex with sexually inexperienced girls and slipped of condoms without their consent. I was one of those sexually inexperienced girls. This was a move that got him labeled the condom skank and almost made me a teen mom.
So when Conrad called me a mother, I got upset. I was having a hard time facing the reality of it all. It was something I didn’t want to be reminded of, especially since at the time I was just wanting an abortion but thanks to being forced to watch The Silent Scream by those ‘Pregnant? Worried? We can Help” people, I was convinced that If I got an abortion I would bleed out on the table and die and or never be able to have kids again. Yea. Those places really fuck with girl’s heads and only lead to girls doing dangerous shit to get rid of babies they don’t want and didn’t consent to making.
But I digress. The long and the short of it is I got super upset being reminded I was going to be tied to that asshole for life and left. I walked around the complex crying. I was maybe gone for 10/15 minutes before I realized that was my fucking house. I wasn’t going to let someone get me so upset that I left my own fucking house. So, I went back to confront Justin. He and Conrad were in the bedroom.
I crash in the door to find… Conrad and Justin struggling in the bedroom. Justin trying to push Conrad away from him saying “we can’t be doing this man, stop, come on” and Conrad pushing Justin’s arm’s away trying to get access to Justin’s dick. Justin was 17. A fresh 17. He was a manly man kind of guy, but at the end of the day he was still a kid and this was a fully grown man he was struggling against. Me showing up stopped the encounter from going further.
Conrad left that day. I’d found out that he was dating the mom of a friend of mine from Sandy Springs a few days into his unwelcomed visit. I think he was afraid that I’d “out” him to her.
I didnt speek to Jusin about what I saw though. I couldn’t wrap my head around it. It was the second time I witness something like that. The first was at a shelter where I walked in on a male staff member sucking off a teen boy who was a friend of mine. There was a look that both Justin and that boy had. A look of shame and confusion. Embarrassment mixed with Just not knowing what to do.
A few days after Conrad left, Justin had a break down while high on cough medicine. We used to call it truth serum cause people just spilled all their secrets on it. Justin starts crying about how he misses his family. They were the only people who loved him that didn’t want him for sex.
He goes into how he missed his siblings and how I was like a sister to him but he fucked that up sleeping with me then just started crying and apologizing for what he’d done cause he could never get his sister back or even me back as his pseudo sister. I told him I was still his sister and asked him what happened with Conrad.
The boys had to earn their keep with Conrad. As I said, they had to steal for him to get money for the motel room, they had to rob places, they had to sell drugs…they had to sell themselves. To him. To other people. That he didn’t care as much when he was high back then, so he did as much coke as he could to get through every day. But that moment, without drugs. Conrad trying to force himself on Justin. Justin couldn’t do it. He didn’t want to do it. And he damn sure didn’t have the right drugs in him to go through with it.
We had this whole conversation about how he had been molested so much by both men and women and how sex was more about power to him than pleasure. How sometimes when he was molested by guys when he was a kid he liked it, and how he was afraid that meant he was gay. How after being molested so much when Conrad first slept with him, he didn’t know how to react.
That first time, Conrad got him really high and he blacked out when he came to Conrad stroking his dick. He had only been at the motel with him a couple of days. He had nowhere else to go, so he went with it. Then he thanked me for giving him the ability to finally say no to him.
By the way, Justin was a fresh 17. When the rape and trafficking started, he had to have been 16. Justin had been kicked out of his independent living group home because they found pot in his room. Homelessness and sexual exploitation in a city 2 hours away from his family and community in the Podunk town he grew up in was his punishment for having less than a dime bag of marijuana. Let that sink in.
Moral of the story:
Now that I’ve typed all this, I am remembering a few other examples that fit into all this. Girls at shelters who had run away and disappeared only to come back with rumors that they’d been turned out by boys in the neighborhood. Girls and boys who just vanished after getting into foster homes with rumors that people later saw them on the streets selling their butts. Girls I met at shelters and group homes with stories they had about daddies and pimps and “businessmen.” Boys who didn’t open up about their experiences till they had no choice but to.
The point I am making in all this? I don’t know if there is some government conspiracy to sell kids. As I said, stranger things have happened. All I do know is the trafficking I saw. The ways kids that I knew were trafficked, it all came from unmonitored foster homes, underfunded facilities with overworked staff that couldn’t maintain control, kids looking for someone that could save them from abuses of the system, but most of all and kids being thrown out on their asses to the streets with no one to turn to and running into the wrong adults offering to help.
This is why the whole Pizzagate, QAnon conspiracy stuff really pisses me off. Because if we don’t recognize how and why sex trafficking happens in foster care, if we create an environment where survivors can’t even tell their stories without being accused of being tinfoil hat-wearing conspiracy theorists… this kind of shit will keep happening.
People need to open their eyes. To see what foster care was like back then and what it’s still like now despite all their “system changes” and “success stories” plastered everywhere about foster kids who made it into college. Those success stories are the exception to an otherwise abysmal life that most kids in foster care have. And if you get anything at all from my “Driftwood Stories” I hope that it’s the understanding that the worst thing that happens to kids in foster care, isn’t having to change homes every few months.
The government has been doing a massive push for foster homes for the past 20 years. On the surface sounds great. Kids deserve parents! The problem is that in doing so a) they’re outsourcing kids to private foster home organizations with even less regulation than what was around when I was a kid and b) it’s pulling funding from group homes that essentially are the primary housing option for teenagers.
This means a continued risk for kids to be thrown to the wolves by falling through the cracks of an already broken system. This is the reality people don’t like to talk about because above all, this is what leads to sex trafficking in foster care.
If you want to make a difference, please donate to organizations that house foster youth and homeless teenagers in your city. Maybe encourage good people in your community to become foster parents. And more importantly, start talking about foster care statistics and be open to listening listen to victims’ stories… if for no other reason than to ensure the stuff I mentioned here doesn’t happen to yet another generation of kids who just want a chance at a childhood.
Thanks for reading. If you read this and use twitter, share it and tag Devon Sawa for me, lol