By: Heather Sewell

  • I was once your average 14-year old girl.
  • I absolutely loved my high school cafeteria pizza, it was the best pizza I had ever tasted!
  • I undeniably loved putting long curls in my little sister’s hair on picture days.
  • I really loved going to my godmother’s house down the street. This is where all of the neighborhood kids hung out and rode their bikes.
  • I was your average 14-year old kid, who loved talking on the phone and having my own room.

To know I survived sex trafficking has a strange sound at times when I hear myself say it.  I was once made to believe I was just a prostitute and this was the road I had chosen. I had come to accept the decisions I made, whether forced or not. I think after you have slept with as many men as I have, you really begin to think that you’re only great at the one thing you have done frequently. I knew how to allow my mind to travel to other more beautiful scenes, while my body performed what it was supposed to do. It was the after thought that haunted me. The after thought came days, months and even years later, but it always came.

Drug use was a normal part of my life. Getting high made everything feel better and I wanted to feel better. Getting high did that for me. When I reflect back, I remember the years but I don’t quite remember where my family was. Where was my family from the ages of 14-22? They were around but just not involved in my life. I guess after the age of 18 you are considered an adult. Most people think that whatever you do after the age of 18, is because that is what you want to do.

How we view our children is vital at any age. It will make them or break them. It is easy for a parent to know their child’s behavior. For example, how they act out when they are stressed. Or, how they shut down and withdraw silently away in solitude. Or how they may find escape through video games and loud music, just wanting to be left alone. Or how they eat all of the junk food in the house and you will find the trail of it in their rooms a week later. Or how your kid may only speak to you, when you speak to them and that is usually because you asked them a question.

My question to parents is: do you know your son or daughter’s heart? Do you know their biggest fears? Do you know how they long to be loved and accepted just the way they are? Are you familiar with how your son or daughter just wants to be included and made to feel like they matter? Are you aware of the negative self talk that replays over and over in their minds? Equally important, how they long to be accepted by their parents without having to prove anything?

I believe our kids stop talking to us because they think “parents just don’t understand”. Maybe we have judged them in the past by thinking, what they just did or said was “stupid”. Or maybe we criticized what they like because we don’t understand it. Our kids may not be talking to us, but I can guarantee they are talking to their friends… and their friends, friends are talking too. By the time we try to understand them our kids have given up trying to explain anything and they have already found solace in silence and escape in other things.

I think part of the answer lies in something we were told was not good for us to do as parents. We need to be their friend. We must be their friend! Before you react, let me explain what I mean. I don’t mean give them whatever they ask for. I don’t mean go along with whatever they want from us by giving in under pressure. On the contrary: being a friend means much more. It means you understand their heart and will love them unconditionally no matter what.

Scripture illustrates this well:
I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. John 15:15 NIV
And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. James 2:23 NIV

Our kids need real friends. We should be those friends. Friends who will tell them the truth when it’s needed and tug on their coat tail when they are wrong. I was your average 14 year old girl who wanted to feel cared for and accepted just as I was, flaws and all. Someone to notice my heart and encourage me that I could become anything in this world. I needed a place where I could air my fears and discuss my tears or display my anger without being shamed. Feel loved and know that things would work out even if my parents’ didn’t seem to.

Friends do this for one another. They encourage each other, and cheer each other on, and hold you when you cry and tell you it will be okay even when there are no answers available. Friends help each other see the bigger picture. Isn’t this what friends do? They help us process our problems and remain by our side while we are running this race called life.

I needed someone to be transparent!

Trans/Parent. Trans is a prefix meaning across, beyond, through, or changing thoroughly. Parent is someone who has children, whether yours biologically or not. I needed a parent who was willing to go across the deep with me and speak life into me when I felt like I was sinking in the ocean with no life preserver. I needed someone who could go with me through my ever-changing emotions and not give up on me and not despise me for how I was feeling in the moment. I needed to know life changes are good and bad. Changing thoroughly through life, no matter what changed, my parents would always be there for me. I needed my mom and dad to be available. I wanted to count on them to tell me the truth and love me when I was wrong, and hold me when I was scared. I needed them to be transparent and just love me no matter what. I needed my parents to be my friend. A friend who cared enough to hear my heart and not judge or criticize my crazy adolescent behavior.

My insides were crying and hurting from so much at the age of 14. But everyone in my life at the time was wrapped up in their own hurts, their own problems, and mine went unnoticed. But then someone did notice. And the ones who did… they listened to me and didn’t judge my short comings. They made it easy for me to talk to them. I thought they were my friends. I thought they cared about me. But instead they raped me and exploited me.

My daughter is an average 14-year old girl, who wears mascara better than I. She plays the guitar and is learning to like her own voice. She loves her record player and Starbucks too. She is learning to walk in wedge heels. We go out on “dates” and I open the car door for her. I allow her to pick the movies and where we may sit too. I love hearing about her day at school and I love rocking out in the car to some Alternative Rock music with her. She laughs when I dance, and at times tells me to stop and then we laugh some more.
More than anything, I love being her mom. But even more then that, I love being her friend. She trusts my heart for her and I never want to disappoint that. But even if I accidentally do disappoint her, I want the freedom to talk about my failures and show her I have learned my lessons and talk about what I could have done different.

I must be transparent with my triumphs as well as my trials. Not to vent and make her feel as if she must come up with a solution to my problems, but to show her my tenacity and faith to rise above the circumstance. My faith is on display and I need to show my daughter what faith in God really looks like. What trust in God really means. Whether that is pushing through prayer or worshiping and singing at the top of my lungs while cooking dinner. I want my kids to know I am human and forgiveness is freeing and so necessary for all of us. Yes, I am a mother to my children, and I am also their friend.
A Poem to my Daughter

How do I express to you that in my eye’s I see you as more than you do
How do I tell you that I see the queen, in you?
How do I tell you to set your standards higher so when boyfriends come along they have to work hard to reach you?
Because your one of those pieces of fruit that glisten and sparkle at the top of the tree and only dirty fish swim at the bottom of the sea
How do I show you just how to love you for you?
All of the silly, goofy, funny things that make up, you
How do I tell you, that “him” having a job is not just enough, I know this might sound kind of tough?
But, when he walks in the house to meet your mother
He should have clean hands, and a firm handshake
He should open the door for you and spend his money on you too.
He should respect you and not try to kiss you on a first date
He should get to know your heart before he knows the color of your bra
He should be afraid to touch you, because he knows how fragile you are
Plus, he should never want to break your heart or leave you scarred
He should have goals and a plan for his own life apart from you
He should know what he wants to do with his life over the next five years, and have a vision too
He should have good sight, knowing his future is in the hands of God.
He should have to look so deep into the Lord, just to discover you
I hope he doesn’t chew tobacco or smoke since I know you hate that too
Remember how you hated going to school with the smell of smoke in your clothes
I hope you don’t compromise your beliefs and desires, saying the things you don’t prefer
– are okay
Because one day you’ll wake up and it will be those very things which will drive you away
There is nothing wrong with remaining strong and taking the time to love yourself
So, you don’t end up giving yourself to the wrong one
Cuz, in a few years you’ll see differently and realize – that wasn’t love
How do I tell you to wait and put your Hope in God
I promise you my daughter; the Lord will not stir you wrong.
The Lord calls you His Beloved, you are His treasured divine.
He gave His life, so you can have life
You are His tender design
To know love, you have to know the creator of love
The one who gave you to me
I prayed earnestly for a daughter
After having boys of three
When I looked at you, I knew you came from heaven above
This is why I can’t just approve of anyone who may mess you up
He has to be born again, a lover of the Lord
I can’t just give my daughter, my flesh to anyone who can cut her heart with a sword
If he loves the Lord, and knows our Father above

Heather writes under the poet name; Heather Heartflo. She has had poetry published with; “The” and Ivy Tech Community College’s 2016 literary journal titled, “New Voices”. She volunteers with the Indianapolis strip church called Unconditional Ministries, where they minister and love on women in the sex industry. Her book titled; “Loves Redeemed Daughter, with the Reflections of Nyla” will available on Amazon in July 2017. She also travels as a poet and speaker.

She grew up in Gary, Indiana. Upon exiting the foster care system at the age of 18, she was homeless and sleeping in the back seat of an abandoned car for 3 months. The street life fully embraced her and she spent the next 12 years off and on in many different strip clubs and prostitution. Additionally, she spent 10 years in an abusive marriage.

6 years ago, Heather Heartflo exited the sex industry and now through her faith in Christ, shares her testimony.

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