East St Louis, Illinois–late 80’s-early 90’s. The city is on the verge of economic collapse. Often referred to as the heart of America’s bottom because of its location downstream from the Mississippi River, it is also one of the most impoverished small cities in the country. In light of the widespread socioeconomic disparity, rampant crime, and poor infrastructure, third world living conditions have been described in the city for many years. For example, clean water and properly functioning sewerage systems are two things that separate first world living conditions from third world living conditions.
In the 80’s and 90’s, East St. Louis was hampered by dysfunctional sewerage systems and poor sanitation. Public schools were shut down on several occasions due to raw sewerage found in the food prep area of the cafeterias. I chose East St. Louis as the setting for the story in order to explore the impact of poverty in urban America, as it relates to the issue of human trafficking and other perils of urban living.
My first novel, Behind Closed Doors 1, provides a detailed account of the long-term effects of childhood sexual abuse in women. After reading my first novel, the real “Dana” reached out to me and shared her experience as a survivor of domestic/familial human trafficking. In turn, she asked me to share her story through my writing in order to raise awareness concerning a crime that is deeply rooted in obscurity and shame. As I gathered the details of Dana’s Story and began to research the topic, I realized the enormity of the problem.
With over 200,000 cases reported each year, domestic human trafficking is currently one of the largest criminal enterprises in this country, second only to drug trafficking. When compared to international trafficking, the contributing factors (poverty, poor education, crime and drug abuse) are virtually the same. In light of these findings; I’m convinced, the story has to be told. So as a mother and advocate for abused women and children, the answer to this question is the driving force behind my desire to tell Dana’s Story.
In a perfect world, we wouldn’t have drug dealers and drug addicts wouldn’t exist. Women wouldn’t sell their bodies and every child would have both parents. Kids would find value in education as opposed to tennis shoes, the neighborhood kingpin would NOT be role a model; and most importantly, ghettos would become obsolete in the absence of poverty.
In a world of imperfection, the desire for wealth and the need for survival are potential precursors to self-destruction. So how did we get here?
“The love of money is the root to all evil, but poverty and wealth are its greatest companions”