Sex-trafficking survivor Stacey Loyd lay in an Arkansas hospital bed, pale and thin. Her eyes were darkened from fatigue. She did not remember screaming or convulsing. She could not remember the paramedics arriving to perform CPR on her, or becoming unconscious.
Loyd, now 36, was addicted to narcotics and a victim of sex trafficking for 13 years. She was first pulled into the sex industry at 23 by a methamphetamine dealer who provided her with drugs and flattered her with gifts.
Loyd had been staying with Partners Against Trafficking Humans (PATH), an organization that provides shelter and services for sexually trafficked and exploited women in Arkansas. It was the Fourth of July, and she had returned from an outing to celebrate the holiday, where she overdosed on drugs.
Louise Allison, founder of PATH, visited Loyd in the hospital as she recovered from the overdose that almost killed her. Allison had been at the shelter when Loyd coded and used her skills as a nurse to help revive her. Loyd said she only wanted to harm her body enough to inflict pain – she wanted to feel something.
“You can live with us, but you can’t die with us,” Allison said before walking out of the room.
Loyd said she was forwarded to Mid Ark Substance Abuse Crisis Center, a treatment center in Little Rock, Arkansas, where she underwent detox. She said she seemed to have visited every other psychiatric and medical hospital already, and she hoped this one could help her.
She was released after three weeks. She first found refuge in the homes of friends, but as relationships became strained, she was forced to live on the streets. Months after leaving the center, Loyd said she was introduced to a man who promised to care and provide for her.
Loyd moved in with the welcoming man, but soon learned she had been deceived into the same trap she had fallen for prior to her first introduction to PATH.
“I thought I was his girlfriend,” Loyd said.
Loyd said after six months of being in the relationship, the man demanded she repay him for every gift he had given her.
“From then on I became his sex slave and did what he wanted when he wanted me to do it, or he said he would kill me,” Loyd said. “I did what he wanted me to do because I wanted to stay numb.”
Loyd said she relied on meth to suppress the pain of her two failed marriages and the loss of custody of her three children prior to entering the sex industry. She said her reliance on meth forced her to stay close to the trafficker who provided it for her.
Loyd described her condition as “animalistic” and called the pimp her “puppet master.” She stayed with other women in several hotels and houses where people sold, bought and used illegal narcotics. Sometimes there was no electricity or running water.
“I got beat-on on a daily basis and told that I was no good,” Loyd said. “(I was told) the world had given up on me and my children had given up on me, because I had chosen a life of doing drugs, and (men) pretty much called me a whore all the time.”
Loyd said she believed it was God who pushed her to call for help after a night of sexual assault. She used the pimp’s phone while the people in the house were asleep and called her parents, who took her to the hospital.
“I had given up on everything,” Loyd said. “My body was ready to give up, my mind was ready to give up, but my heart wasn’t ready to give up, and so I just prayed out to God because I couldn’t even walk … I was so messed up from (men) sexually assaulting me.”
Loyd was introduced to PATH by her mother. When she first entered the program, she was hopitalized three times and was directed to work on her substance abuse before returing to the program from sexual assault.Approximately six months after leaving the hospital, Loyd called Allison to return to PATH. She was committed to completing the program this time, and, unlike her previous stay, she wanted to change.
Stacey Loyd is a fictitious name used to protect the identity of the woman identified in this series.