Why I Ride

Because I can!

“Child trafficking is not a new phenomenon, but caring about it is.” - Love146

Hi there!!! My name is Chloe, I’m from Austin, Texas, and I just graduated from the University of Texas at Austin! A close friend, Addison Simons, introduced me to the cause and organization when she was chosen to ride on the 2022 team. Of course, I was so proud of her dedication to fighting for justice– however, I was not exactly surprised, as she is exactly the type of person that would bike across the U.S. for a cause she believes in. I remember her encouraging me to apply for the 2023 team, and I just thought, “I could never do that.” In fact, I explicitly told her that several times. However, at some point after the 2023 team had been chosen, it was finally my turn to read Addison’s copy of Girls Like Us by Rachel Lloyd; it’s a book that all Pedal team members are required to read during training, and her copy had been passed around to friends and family ever since she had crossed the finish line in San Diego.

After finally reading Girls Like Us, I understood. I was horrified to learn that the most vulnerable children are the ones most often targeted to be trafficked for sex. Some of the risk factors include past sexual or physical abuse, traumatic experiences, and unstable living conditions (Polaris Project). These are individuals that may already have a skewed idea of what love and healthy relationships look like, and it’s used to abuse and exploit them.

“I really, honestly had felt that I had found my Romeo and Juliet story. But in all actuality, he had another plan.

“He made me believe that I wanted to do this. He told me that my family would never take me back. That no one would ever love me. That I would never be able to start a family of my own.”

- Sex Trafficking Survivors, Jeri & Andrea (The Life Story)

The perversion, greed, and evil that I read about was incomprehensible. Not only are adults selling children for sex, but manipulating them, and then often further physically and sexually abusing them. Girls Like Us goes deeper into these factors that make a child more vulnerable to being trafficked, and how this can shape their experience as a victim and survivor. While the average “well-adjusted fourteen-year-old” may be quickly reported missing by their parents, and maybe even featured on the news, the same is certainly not true for the majority of trafficking victims.

“Make the child a child of color, a runaway, a child in the foster care system, a child no one’s really going to miss, a child so starved of attention and affection that anything you provide will be welcomed, a child who’ll be seen as a willing participant in her own exploitation– the story changes dramatically. There’s no Amber Alert, no manhunt, no breaking news story, no Nancy Grace coverage, no police investigation, no prosecution. It’s just another ‘teen prostitute,’ another one of the nameless, faceless, ignored, already damaged 70 percent [of trafficked individuals from low-income backgrounds]” (Lloyd 46).

It broke my heart to think about the abuse (and the child) that no one notices, or even seems to care about. 

My anger toward the apathy and prejudice that I read about only increased when I watched a movie called Wind River with my dad. This fictional film, which is set on a reservation in Wyoming, follows the rape and murder of a young indigenous woman. Her murder was one of many alluded to in the film, and the story is based on real, persistent violence against indigenous women in the United States. At the end of the film, a few words appear on the screen: 

“While missing person statistics are compiled for every other demographic, none exist for Native American women. No one knows how many are missing.”

Seeing these words immediately brought trafficking to mind– how rarely it is discussed, the few statistics and studies we have on it, and how many children we don’t even know are being trafficked for sex every day. I wondered how many of these missing indigenous women and children had been trafficked for sex after their disappearance. I also saw how intertwined sex trafficking is with so many other injustices in our communities: sexual abuse of all kinds, physical abuse, domestic violence and manipulation, and a host of other crimes. 

With all this being said, I ride to amplify the voices of survivors and simply bring awareness to the cause. I ride to raise funds that will help prevent trafficking, and will hopefully allow law enforcement and our wonderful beneficiaries to reach those that we don’t even know are being trafficked yet. Although I am a relatively unqualified cyclist and advocate, I ride because I can!!! I am filled with gratitude that I have the opportunity to take part in the fight against sex trafficking in this manner– what a privilege it is to be able to spend my summer on a bike for an amazing cause! I am so excited to grow in my advocacy skills and knowledge about sex trafficking alongside my team of 7 other amazing women!!

July 12, 2024
Chloe Aguilar

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