When I first started hearing about this story, I did my patrol of the news articles and discovered a disturbing trend. So many people (a large number of them men) kept saying “Why didn’t they leave? Why didn’t they escape? Why didn’t three women overpower this one man?”
I found those statements to be galling and frustrating. As we would later find out, there were three men involved. The door was blockaded and barely able to be opened as Mr. Ramsey attested and the police used a large number of officers to break into the place to rescue the women successfully. There were also statements indicating the men proposed violence to the young women when they were still very impressionable. They were said to have told the girls “I took you from your home, I can go back there and harm your family any time I like. If you leave, I will do that.”
With such a threat hanging over their heads and without any knowledge of how they were physically constrained at the time, how could any compassionate individual make the statement WHY DIDN’T THEY JUST ESCAPE?
Speaking to an audience at Johns Hopkins about issues of human trafficking and sexual violence, Smart recently offered an answer to that question. She explained that some human trafficking victims don’t run away because they feel worthless after being raped, particularly if they have been raised in conservative cultures that push abstinence-only education and emphasize sexual purity:
Smart said she “felt so dirty and so filthy” after she was raped by her captor, and she understands why someone wouldn’t run “because of that alone.”
Smart spoke at a Johns Hopkins human trafficking forum, saying she was raised in a religious household and recalled a school teacher who spoke once about abstinence and compared sex to chewing gum.
“I thought, ‘Oh, my gosh, I’m that chewed up piece of gum, nobody re-chews a piece of gum, you throw it away.’ And that’s how easy it is to feel like you no longer have worth, you no longer have value,” Smart said. “Why would it even be worth screaming out? Why would it even make a difference if you are rescued? Your life still has no value.”