The following was previously published via the now defunct Yahoo!Voices on August 27, 2013. This important issue should not go unnoticed. If you see something, say something.
Evelyn Rose was like any other girl when she turned 12. She went to school, had a lot of friends and only wanted to have fun. Although she didn’t know it yet, her life would spiral into a world of deception and cruelty by her next birthday.
Her world began to come crashing down after Mom went to jail for attempting to murder her Grandmother. Although she lived with her Grandmother at first, the stress of what occurred led to fall in with a bad crowd of teenager. Although she wasn’t with the group of kids at the time, she was accused of breaking into house. Evelyn ended probation rather than spend time in juvenile detention. It seemed like everything would be okay when she moved in with her Uncle (Anthony Gehon of Phoenix, Arizona) but instead of taking care of her he allegedly put her on BackPage.
One of the first things her Uncle allegedly did was take virginity at age 12. He started working her as a prostitute when she turned 13. This life would continue for the next four years. Evelyn explained that her uncle gave her a fake ID so that clients (She saw five to nine of them each day) would think she was in her 20s despite her youthful appearance.
When asked about the kind of clients she had, Evelyn replied “Politicians, FBI agents, cops in uniform…you name it.”
Clients paid $120 for a half hour and $220 for hour to see her. Although her Uncle knew to expect to base amounts, clients sometimes gave her tips which she pocketed to secretly buy food for herself when she passed by a convenience store. Sometimes she even used the money to spend time with her cousins who had no idea what was really going on.
Her life was utter despair. Evelyn’s explained how she was regularly chained to a bed for weeks and given doses of acid to keep her subdued. Although she sometimes broke the chain and fled to the streets (her longest escape lasted two weeks), she was always captured again in the end. Whenever she was recaptured, she Evelyn was forced to walk the streets offering herself for $5. Although she was usually in her uncle’s ring, she explained that she was occasionally traded on the international human trafficking trade. According to Evelyn she once found herself in a drum shot up with heroin on the Mexican side of the border. For one reason or another, the deal didn’t go through and she was shipped back home.
She tried to go to the police but for the longest time they didn’t believe her until she finally managed to steal the USB that her uncle stored pictures of the girls and their Backpage advertisements. The police investigated the house and discovered chains, collars and whips. Even more poignant was that Evelyn’s uncle had tattooed all the girls marking them as his own. During our interview, Evelyn showed me the tattoo on her back and the scars on her arms and hands.
As Evelyn spoke with the police who finally believed her, she told them stories of her uncle’s cruelty. She told them about the time she sat in the backseat of a car and watched him snap a man’s neck for disappointing him. According to Evelyn, her uncle and other family members (including her aunt) had been involved in her uncle’s business since the 1970s.
“From the 70s to now there were 100 girls that passed through. I would say there were 40 girls who were firmly in it. Only 12 have agreed to testify.” Evelyn said.
Although Evelyn isn’t even 20 yet, her youthful appearance is betrayed by her thousand-yard stare. Life has been hard for already and the concept of normal is skewed. Although the subject matter was emotionally trying for both interviewer and interviewee, she was able to speak freely about what had happened.
I noted how well she had done at telling me her story. Evelyn said, “I know that it sounds like I talk like it’s nothing but this was what was normal for me. I realize most 13-year-olds didn’t have life like this.”
After nearly a decade of captivity, Evelyn is physically free but the scars continue to haunt her. Her tears as the stony façade she had managed to portray made me lose my breath but I encouraged her to keep working towards the better life she wants. Evelyn told me how good with computers she had been when she was younger and wants to go to college to become a computer technician. With good friends helping her get on her feet, I know she has the determination to make it in this world as a free woman.
“I try to not let the past prevent you from getting to the future.” Evelyn said as we neared the final moments of our conversation.
If you know of something amiss, contact the Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Edmund Burke once said that “Evil triumphs when good men do nothing.” How true that is in a story like this.