I Was the Girl with No Teeth

I was what gets judged in our society. I was the homeless girl wandering the streets. I was the addict “sucking off the system.” I was the prostitute, the attention whore, the girl with no teeth, the chick falling asleep on public transportation, the lady who forgot her kid in the car, the run away, the cutter, the smelly one, and the list goes on.

Then I got “better” pretty much over night. It turned midnight and poof—I became the epitome of good old social norms. Just kidding.

Sometimes we think it happens that way, but even in the best of situations, with everything I needed at my fingertips and all the drive and desire in the world, it did not happen overnight. The great FLY LADY, an online support blogger who helps you keep your house clean, blogged: “This mess didn’t happen over night and it is not going to get better over night, so let’s take it one day at a time.” Those words stuck with me (even though none of the cleaning tips did).

Getting better didn’t mean that I somehow fit into society’s box of social norms. Every time I had an intervention, it focused on be this, do that, and act this way. Never once was the focus on me feeling peace—it was always on becoming what everyone else thought I should be. But when I started to see how my life was affected by my trauma, it gave me freedom, though not instantly or boundlessly.

Savannah J. Sanders is a leading advocate in the prevention of child sex trafficking and author of Sex Trafficking Prevention: A Trauma-Informed Approach for Parents and Professionals (Unhooked Books, 2015). A survivor of hardships, abuse, and trafficking, Savannah is now living a full life as a victim’s advocate, wife, and mother of four. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in social work and is working with the Sandra Day O’Connor Institute as Training Coordinator for the SAFE (Safeguarding Adolescents From Exploitation) Action Project. Sanders shares her story and speaks regularly to groups across the United States on anti-trafficking efforts and ways to support victims.

 Photo credit: Ferran. / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND