Unsuspecting of anything, I went to my landlord’s place to help him with a problem he was having with his computer. He was kind and insisted on getting me something to drink, which I ultimately accepted. After a few sips of my soda, I realized that my muscles were numbing. I couldn’t move my legs, and I tried to say something but my voice had been taken from me. I was drugged and had no idea what lay in wait for me.
The years after that day were a blur to me. I often didn’t know where I was, if I was intoxicated, or even who stood before me. The investigator showed me pictures, for example, that I was completely unaware of. My landlord had taken my freedom from me, and now he owned me. A tattoo was done on my lower leg that marked me as his. He branded me like the other women whose freedom he had also taken away. All the things that are illegal in the Red Light District were done to me on private properties throughout The Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Turkey, Romania, Poland, and the Czech Republic. Often it concerned private homes that were vacant or for which people received compensation.
One day I managed to escape. After months of planning, I escaped and eventually managed to build a life for myself. During the day, I give workshops to victims of human trafficking and prostitution, sharing advice and life lessons that I learned in the time that I was a prisoner. Although I am now have my freedom back, my time as prisoner, as someone’s property, still haunts me every day.
That’s why I am grateful to Share Network for the support that they gave me through their Branded Free project. Share Network gave me the chance to leave my past behind by letting my tattoo that branded me be covered up by the talented tattoo artist Henk Schiffmacher. I am forever thankful for Henk and his creative insight that gave what seemed like an impossible branding tattoo a solution, because let me tell you it was not easy to do this. Therefore, I will always be very thankful for Henk and Share Network, specifically Branded Free, for helping me complete my wish to truly and completely get my life back. Thanks to Branded Free and Henk Schiffmacher, I can now comfortably go swimming again, wear pants that don’t reach my ankles, and so many more things that I cannot convey in a few words. Even if it is a small symbol, the cover-up freed my physical self from a time in my life that I would like to leave behind.