“I basically gave myself to Troy.”
Alexis* met the man who would become her pimp when she was 15.
She walked by his house on the way to school in a friendly Westchester County neighborhood, and she’d often see him sitting on his stoop, chatting with neighbors. His name was Troy, and he was in his early 30s. He seemed friendly, so one day she asked him if he knew someone who wanted the abandoned kitten she had found.
That conversation led to an invitation to a party. Alexis was flattered to be asked out by an older man, particularly one who dressed nicely and had a car. When he said he needed a photo for the party’s guest list, “a sexy one, where you look older,” she just thought he was trying to make her look old enough to get in. They looked through her Instagram feed and picked one together. Only later would she find out that he’d posted that photo to Backpage, a notorious sex site that has recently been taken down.
Alexis was drugged the first time she had a paid encounter, but when sober she found the money (which they split 50-50) to be too good to pass up. Her family was facing eviction, and selling her body a few times would get them back on their feet.
“A few times” turned into years of sex trafficking, drug abuse, physical assault, and arrests. She would go to various hotels in Westchester, stay for two or three nights, and see nine or ten “Johns” each night. Most of the time she was high on cocaine, “Mollys,” or Percocet, or a combination of all three.
“I basically lost myself,” she says. “I basically gave myself to Troy. I let him do what he wanted with me.”
The turning point came when a former boyfriend told Alexis about the Sanctuary, CV’s teen homeless shelter. “Deep down,” she says, “It didn’t feel right. I was disgusted, but the drugs made me feel good.”
At the Sanctuary, she began to believe that she wasn’t a bad person, that she was a victim and could take charge of her life. She got help to get off drugs, and eventually re-enrolled in high school upstate. But she had several setbacks — it wasn’t easy.
Now 22 and in a healthy relationship, Alexis works full-time and has a 2-year-old daughter, but her past still haunts her. “People message me to this day on Facebook and say, ‘No disrespect, but are you still working?’” She deletes the messages without responding.
The Sanctuary is the only teen homeless shelter in Westchester and Rockland counties. It is a voluntary program for girls and boys aged 12 to 17. If you know a teen who needs help, please share our hotline number: 1-888-997-1583. We’ll take it from there.
* Names have been changed to protect privacy.