SPOKANE, Wash. – It was a time that should have been filled with joy. Instead Rebekah’s childhood was scarred by abuse.
Her family bounced from Montana to Medical Lake to Spokane and back to Montana again. All the while little Rebekah was physically and sexually abused by a family member turned predator. So Rebekah started reaching for ways to dull her feelings of despair.
"My sister actually introduced me to smoking cigarettes at nine and then I started smoking weed probably around 11. Started trying it out. Started drinking around that age too," Rebekah said. "I ran away from home after my 8th grade graduation."
Rebekah fell into drugs and lived on the streets. At 15-years-old she was desperate for a fresh start and followed her sister to Georgia. There she met a 19-year-old man who would change the course of her life in a way she never dared to dream.
“Yeah, tall dark and handsome. I mean you just had it all in a package. I mean he was going to Georgia Tech, he had lifetime goals. I was infatuated with him. I was also young and dumb and 15,” Rebekah explained.
She could hardly believe her fortune. For six blissful months, she was living a dream.
"We went to movies. We wined and dined, he took me skydiving. I mean, he just did everything with me," Rebekah said. “It's one of those things were I look back and think, ‘Wow, how naive can you actually be?’"
She was blissfully naive until the night her boyfriend took her to a house party and shattered his spell.
"And there were a lot of young girls there like me. And I never knew what we were doing. And this girl was like, 'Hey do you want to try some ecstasy? Do you want to do this?' And I was like, ‘no,’ and she chuckled. She goes you're going to need it. I was just like, okay," she said.
Her boyfriend pulled her aside and told her she and all the other girls were there to be sold for sex. When 15-year-old Rebekah told him no, he made it clear it was not her choice.
“I know your family and I know your niece and nephew and I will murder them if you don't do this," he told Rebekah.
Her boyfriend abruptly transformed into her trafficker.
"A lot of things changed in me. I mean, being raped seven times, that's pretty much what it is," Rebekah explained.
While she wanted to run, she was in constant fear she and her family would be killed.
"I mean you're going from 10 to 15 guys a day, maybe more. These girls will be working all night just to get their quota," she said.
Her teenage body had become a commodity. A flower tatoo on her arm conceals where her trafficker tattooed her with a bar code, to mark her as his property.
Over time, Rebekah was even forced to ensnare other girls into the underworld. One was just 11-years-old. “She was just standing on the corner of the road just ready to get on the bus. All I said was, ‘Hey you want to go get high,’” she explained.
Rebekah said it was not a good idea to say ‘no.’
"Oh they'll beat you. I was brutally beat. I said no. I learned my lesson."
One such scenario happened when Rebekah and another girl plotted to try and outsmart their trafficker and run away.
"We ended up getting caught by him and I ended up in a closet for three days,” she explained. “He starved me for three days and beat me and then sold me to the next trafficker."
The next trafficker tortured Rebekah for 24 agonizing hours then sold her on to the next man. He took her to a home where men with guns made sure none of the girls dared to leave.
“That was the day I decided I wasn't going to have sex anymore. I was going to get a bullet in the back of my head if I needed to but I was going to figure out how to run," Rebekah said.
She was outside with one of her armed captors when he got distracted and, in her bare feet, she bolted.
"I just started running. I was running and they were chasing. I ended up getting across the busy main street and jumping over a fence and jumping into a garbage can. And I just sat there. And hid. And hid. I burrowed myself to the bottom of the garbage can and just hid there," she explained. "I honestly believe that God, I mean, I should have been hit by one of those guns but I wasn't."
Like countless other girls who clawed their way out of hell, 15-year-old Rebekah felt she had nowhere to turn. No one was looking for her. She had no job, no home and no support system. Her traffickers conditioned her to think she was nothing without them. Without anyone telling her otherwise, she started to think maybe her traffickers were right.
"That sex was all I could ever possibly give anyone in this world," she said.
She ended up ensnared by a trafficker yet again. Again, she almost paid with her life.
"And I ended up getting tortured by the cartel. I was stabbed. They just raped me, stabbed me and threw me out of a moving vehicle," she explained. "Would I always be a sex tool? And that's what I thought when I was lying there in the ditch. Just take my life now."
It was when she was sprawled out in that ditch that she felt something new wash over her.
"Like God was telling me to get up. Like he had a purpose for me. And I held onto that," Rebekah said.
Rebekah latched on to the belief her life could be different. The road to recovery was not a direct route. With the help of job corps, a marriage and three kids, she started to find her way.
Today Rebekah is 32-years-old and only recently decided to share her story on a topic often seen as too taboo.
"People need to have more of a voice and it doesn't just have to be mine, but nobody was doing anything so I was like, ‘Well... let the talking begin,’" she said.
Only now has she started to grasp that what happened to her was not her fault. Now instead of pretending her painful past does not exist, she's embracing it. Not only for herself, but for the sake of the many girls still suffering in this unforgiving underworld.
"I should have been dead and that's one thing I thank God for," she said.
Rebekah is now an advocate for girls who want a bridge out of the life of sex trafficking.