Lexie Smith was first trafficked and sold when she was just 11 years old. In the years since she’s escaped, Lexie has worked closely with the Rebecca Bender Initiative to recover from the years of abuse she suffered.
RBI uses innovative technology and an online platform to provide help and hope to survivors of human trafficking. Their program, “Elevate,” is an intensive 16-week online, live course that takes survivors through deeper levels of healing, professional development and leadership skills. After the intensive, survivors receive an entire year of follow-up support and a lifetime of connection and access to workshops—both in person and via webinar.
Lexie is an Elevate graduate.
Her bravery is extraordinary, and her journey is one that will change lives and encourage other survivors that they are not alone. She’s starting by sharing this message, to the men who trafficked her.
“I was only 11 years old when you bought me. I was never allowed to know your name, but you knew mine. I was a little girl whose name you put a price on. Whose summers you stole. Whose life you haunted, and soul you nearly destroyed by your selfishness. And I have something that I want to say to you.
I forgive you.
I forgive you because I know now that hurt people, hurt people.
That doesn’t mean that it’s okay to go around do whatever you want, or you have the grace to continue acting in the way that you did. It just means that my conscience and my thoughts are merciful towards you. I used to be defined by you. I used to walk around fearful, that you would find me some day.
And you did, because the memories of you, and what you did, the things you said we’re etched into my mind forever. They hunted me day in and day out and sometimes it was all that I could do just to breathe.
Those memories defined my existence. But it was an identity that I didn’t want. So I tried to starve it away.
I tried to change the way I looked so that no one would ever want me ever again. I tried to drown it out, I tried to run away, I tried to do everything that I could. But you were always there. You ruined me in the same way, if not worse than how someone ruined you at some point in your life.
Well I’m not gonna make the same mistake.
I choose to rise up out of the ashes and the rubble, to be a light and a beacon of hope for those that have been ravaged by the same things that I have. Because we all hurt at some point. We’re forgotten, abused, neglected—those things are inevitable.They will change us, but they don’t have to define us.
Maybe the men who purchased me will never see this video. But if they do, or other men like them do, I want them to hear this: I have let go of the dark person that you were. I’ve released myself from those memories, and they no longer haunt me anymore.
I have forgiven you, and I hope that you’ll be able to forgive yourself one day, as well as those who have damaged you.
You still matter, and I hope that you are well.”