My Testimony

silhouette of a woman with pink and purple sky

My name is Alyssa Marie Gomez and I am 21 years old.

I grew up watching my parents suffering from substance abuse and watched them in active addiction as we lived on the “bad side” of a tiny town in California. I was bullied because I stuck to myself and started self-harming when I was 12, so I was put on medication. When I was 14, my dad died from his addiction and I went into foster care due to my mother's active addiction. I was very suicidal and was diagnosed with Bipolar 1 Disorder, and was immediately given a regimen of medication combinations.

I began to run away when I went into group homes. I was sexually assaulted by one of my roommate's older friends and I felt really angry at the world after that. When I was 15, I started getting sexually trafficked by gang members I trusted. I was groomed with narcotics by my traffickers and this caused me to develop an addiction to drugs. They forced me to practice their religion and attempted to wash out my Hispanic features by appearing more Caucasian. I was able to run away from my trafficker and was sent to safety homes along with group homes placements. I saw how corrupt the foster care and CSEC (Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children) system was, so I didn’t want to be in it. I attempted suicide and began running away again.

I began to hang out with local gang members around my group home, and I didn’t realize the group home was right by "The Blade" - the strip where girls and boys, young and old, are walking the streets and working to survive. I trusted this gang with the tales of my previous trafficking and the scars all my suicide attempts left behind. I started dating a 22 year-old drug dealer from the gang and we started doing drugs together. The members of the gang had me live with them in a trap house (a drug house where multiple illicit activities take place) in order to protect me from others. Then the members of the gang began to traffic me. I was sold as a commodity to grown adults, I was cleaning their houses, I was selling drugs. I was traded between gang members and certain ones took me upstate, certain ones took me East, certain ones kept me locked up in a room, certain ones just grabbed me to throw me on the floor because they had a hard day.

One of the older women who was a madam to me at one point had a secret meeting with myself and other gang members. She proposed we rob one of her friends that she disliked because he was a drug dealer and was a “bad man." She told the men how he touched me against my will and how he spoke of taking me to other states without telling the others. It was settled that we would do it, but then everyone got involved and it got out of hand. They murdered the man and a few days later, the police arrived to arrest everyone and were surprised to find me alone in that trap house. Almost a week before my 16th birthday, I was arrested alongside my traffickers and, though I was released, I would run into them again on the day I had to be present for the murder trial at the age of 19.

I had already gone home to my newly sober mother by that point and was finishing high school. I faced my traffickers and saw once again how corrupt our system is. Two of my traffickers stayed in prison whilst I found out two of my traffickers were free - one of them walked up to me in the courthouse with an ankle
monitor on while an investigator meant to protect me was sitting in front of me. I saw the other one and started screaming at her, so the investigator led me to another room downstairs, but I was very distraught. I was lied to by district attorneys, was not protected as a victim of human trafficking or as a witness in a murder case with high-profile gang members, and I was portrayed as a villain in front of the jury rather than them telling the truth of my story.

I felt like these investigators and district attorneys didn’t care about me or my well-being. They didn’t care about what happened to me—they risked my life along with my mental stability because they wanted their convictions so their title could go up. I was offered a deal similar to that of a co-defendant rather than a vacatur (vacated judgment) due to it being a violent crime despite my previous documentation as a CSEC victim. I was grateful that I didn’t have to go to prison, as the legal system intimidated me and I didn’t understand it. I was threatened with the kind of charges that make people say “good riddance” when they hear them on the news.

The system infuriated me, so I dedicated myself to the movement at the age of 18 when I began mentoring at a program based in my hometown that I had graduated from. I saw the potential in the youth that are so oppressed by this system we have established. I knew that so many others had to be out there that were in my situation and felt like no one understood. I wanted to show these kids that they can still be kids and have the intelligence and potential to one day give themselves the lives they truly want and deserve. I have had the opportunity to work with youth who are in our juvenile detention centers and probation departments, youth with gang involvement, CSEC victims, foster youth, youth who struggle with substance abuse and self-harm, as well as youth who deal with generational incarceration.

I am currently in college, on the road to one day becoming a lawyer with a focus on children’s rights. I want to work specifically with CSEC victims and foster youth to help kids find their voice, because they deserve to be heard for what they have had to endure. I believe all victims have the potential to thrive in their lives as survivors with the right care, resources, legislation, and support.

Alyssa Marie Gomez

Published by SurvivorSpace, an initiative of Zero Abuse Project.