Eli is the man of his house.
He is 14.
He knows his mom needs his help.
His two little sisters are 3 and 6.
Eli’s dad is in prison, again.
Eli wants to be a doctor or lawyer someday.
He wants to make enough money to build a house for his mom.
He wants to never worry about being hungry again.
Eli sees other guys selling weed.
He sits outside watching them.
He’s hungry and so are his sisters.
That’s when Juan walks over to him and says,
“Can you get me some smokes from the store?
Here is $20.”
Eli goes to do it and brings back the smokes and change.
Juan lets him keep the change.
Every day, Juan gives Eli little tasks.
He gets $20, $50 or even $100.
Eli buys food for his mom and even some toys for his sisters.
He feels powerful.
They don’t need his dad, who drinks too much, annyway.
One day, Juan says he has a favor to ask Eli.
Eli gets into his car and they drive to a parking garage.
A man gets inside and Juan gets out.
Eli is scared but doesn’t move.
The man starts to pull his pants down.
Eli says no, but Juan is standing there and won’t let him out.
Eli is sick with pain after the man rapes him.
The man gets out and Juan gets in.
He hands Eli $50 and says, this is how you make money now.
Eli says no, but Juan threatens to do the same to his sisters.
Eli starts to be depressed and feels trapped.
He thinks no one would believe him.
No one would think a boy could be raped.
One day, Eli is in school and someone comes to his class,
They talk about human trafficking and how it’s not ever anyone’s fault.
They talk about girls - and boys! - being sold for sex trafficking.
They encourage the class to listen to what feels right in their body,
And to reach out if they need support.
They tell them that there are places that are safe to talk about these things — without judgement.
He walks up to the presenter after class.
He whispers, “I think… I’d like to learn more. Can we talk?”
The woman gives him her card and says,
“Yes. You are not alone. Let’s connect. I’ll be there.”