Jesse Leon on Combating Human Trafficking

Courtesy of Penguin Random House

Breaking Stigmas and Combating the Human Trafficking Crisis

Jesse Leon is the author of I’m Not Broken and No estoy roto, and is a social impact consultant to foundations and investors on ways to address issues of substance abuse/addiction, affordable housing, and mental health. 

America’s sex trafficking crisis is worse than you think.  And it happens to boys too.

I should know.

From age 11 to 14, I was sexually abused and trafficked without my parents knowing. My perpetrators introduced me to drugs and, by the time the authorities got involved, I was addicted.

Then I was victimized a second time. This time by the system that was supposed to protect me.

Instead of receiving help, I was handed off to a soul-less therapist as a way for my school and the authorities to wash their hands of me. From age 14 to 18, I’d talk about my drug use and continued sex trafficking to my state-assigned therapist during our weekly sessions. Amazingly, she never recommended drug treatment or services for sexually exploited children. Down I continued through the nightmarish hell of drug addiction and the commercial childhood sexual exploitation of the streets.

Through a series of miracles, I was able to take my life back. At age 18, Narcotics Anonymous meetings helped me get clean and a new, caring therapist helped me heal, along with a group of peers who supported me with compassion and empathy. I went from surviving to thriving, graduating from UC Berkeley and Harvard. Now I’m able to return the favor, helping others thrive through my work in philanthropy and social impact investing.

Hoping for miracles is not a plan. The trafficking crisis is coming to a neighborhood near you. Soon – if it’s not there already.

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