Kate Price is a child sex trafficking survivor turned advocate.
After being commercially trafficked from early childhood through adolescence, Kate became a researcher and survivor advocate. A graduate of Lesley University in Cambridge, MA and Simmons College in Boston, MA, Kate’s work has informed national child sex trafficking policy and programming. Price is a currently a doctoral student at the University of Massachusetts Boston.
This week, I caught up with the inspiring Kate Price for the Feministing Five to learn about her story and talk about survivorship, sex trafficking in the United States, her innovative research, and what healing looks like. You can learn more about Kate and support her in her research through her crowdfunding campaign here.
Senti Sojwal: Can you tell our readers little bit about your experience as a survivor?
Kate Price: I’m a survivor of the commercial sexual exploitation of children, specifically child sex trafficking and child pornography. An immediate member of my family trafficked me from when I was very young to when I was twelve. The exploitation ended because I got wise to what was happening, was spending more time with friends and came to understand that the lies I was being told — for example, that this only happened to “special little girls.” My exploiters also only wanted really young girls. When I hit puberty, I was no longer desired in the same way. I grew up in northern Appalachia, and my family was just consumed in cycles of intergenerational poverty and violence and addiction. My primary coping mechanism was school. Books were my escape. I ran away in high school. I actually ran away to Smith College, where a friend was studying. Academia was my way out – it always has been. I got my masters and now am working towards my PhD.
Sojwal: What do you wish people knew about sex and human trafficking in the US?
Price: Currently, in 29 states, children and minors can be arrested and prosecuted for prostitution. In an additional 11 states, children can be arrested but not prosecuted. Only in 12 states are children completely decriminalized — where they can’t be arrested or prosecuted for prostitution. While the narrative is that this is happening elsewhere, it is very much happening in our own backyards, and the consequences are dire. 86 percent of child sex trafficking victims in the US have been or are involved in the foster care system. We’re really talking about the most vulnerable populations, and kids who have already been through so much. The vast majority of child trafficking victims are poor children and children of color.
Sojwal: You’re a researcher and advocate. What kinds of projects are you currently working on?
Price: Research was how I figured out that I had been trafficked. I always knew something was wrong, but I thought I had a really bad family. Through reading about and researching prostitution, I realized that’s what happened to be. My blood still goes cold when i think about it. It was planned and it was purposeful. I also realized it was happening all over the world, and that what happened to me wasn’t an accident. My focus really has been policy and changing policy, specifically this problem of kids being arrested for prostitution. I myself was so surprised to learn that, and whenever I talk about that in my research, others are shocked as well.
Sojwal: What are your greatest goals as an advocate for survivors?
Price: My biggest goal right now is to ensure that no child is prosecuted for prostitution in the United States. I don’t know that that will happen in my lifetime, but I’m doing my best. I also want to do gender-based, data-driven research about the factors that contribute to certain states having more progressive sex trafficking legislation. It’s so important to have a human trafficking task force in place in every state. It’s also so important to have women in positions as state legislators.
Sojwal: What has healing looked like for you? Can you offer any wisdom to others who may be more recently processing a trauma like the one you went through?
Price: I just did a whole series on my blog about healing. I think the biggest thing in healing was just learning how to be a human again. My humanity was beaten out of me. I was an object. If I had any agency at all, I would be punished, and I was. It took me a good 10 to 15 years to have an authentic relationship, to have thoughts of my own. I was always a feminist, but I was very obedient and had been taught to be that way to stay alive. It took a long time and patience to get over that.
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