The Slave Across the Street
By Theresa L. Flores, with Peggy Sue Wells (reviewed by Peter DeHaan)
The Slave Across the Street, by Theresa L. Flores puts a face – a middle-class American face – on human trafficking, specifically for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation. This real life account of Theresa’s recruitment, manipulation, and coercion to become a sex slave will surprise and shock. The result is a poignant portrayal of a reality that many would deny or choose to ignore.
Coming from a well-to-do middle class family, having both parents present, and living in an affluent neighborhood, Theresa Flores does not fit the stereotypical image of a girl who is unwillingly sucked into a life of forced prostitution. Wisely sparing graphic gratuitous details, only enough is shared to allow readers to begin to comprehend the horrors that Theresa endured during her two years of sexual exploitation, physical violence, and emotional threats. Even with these minimal details, it is at times too much.
The purpose of The Slave Across the Street, however, is not to shock or overwhelm, but to inform. First, human trafficking for the sex industry is an evil reality in the United States. Second, no one is truly immune from being forced into this insidious practice. Third, many people could have prevented Theresa from being pulled into it or helped extricate her from it, but they didn’t. They chose to look the other way, to be passive and avoid doing the right thing. This included the very people who should have protected here and kept her safe: teachers, school counselors, security guards, police and the even moms living in the houses where her abuse took place,
How does the story end? This isn’t a spoiler; the subtitle makes it clear: “The True Story of How an America Teen Survived the World of Human Trafficking.” Most girls in situations like Theresa’s are never freed from it. Many remain inextricably mired in it until they die, often by suicide or murder. Theresa Flores, however, is a rare exception. Once liberated, Theresa’s road to recovery was long and painful, but now she is a powerful voice, speaking out against the horrors that she endured as a trafficked teen.
The book concludes with a list of ten ways concerned people can get involved, including her own organization, www.traffickfree.com.
The Slave Across the Street is a book that I didn’t want to read, but couldn’t avoid – and neither should you.
[The Slave Across the Street, by Theresa L. Flores, with Peggy Sue Wells. Published by Ampelon Publishing, 2010, ISDN: 978-0-9823286-8-2, 183 pages, $14.99]
Read more book reviews by Peter DeHaan.