At 16, Anika joined youthSpark’s Voices and said, “On a score of 0 – 10 [where zero was the low end of the scale], I’m a one. That’s how I feel.” Growing up, she frequently heard that she looked “grown” because of her physique, which made her very vulnerable to men in the community who groomed her to “work”.
One day while hanging out at a neighborhood park, Anika was approached by a young male in his early 20s who started flirting with her. She had always seemed to get attention from older males. She thought it was normal, and she didn’t feel uncomfortable. The man’s name was Tone, and he said he came to Atlanta to live with his twin brother and his girlfriend. She enjoyed his attention and their conversation, so she didn't see any harm when he asked for her number. After being introduced to his twin brother and his girlfriend, they began to double date often. She felt the relationship was real because Tone introduced her as his girlfriend every where they went. “We went to the gym, and hung out in hotel rooms — you know, the stuff mature people do.” Within a matter of two weeks, something changed.
Tone told Anika they needed money to keep going out, and that he knew something she could do. He would take pictures of her to put on a website, and instructed her to create a Hotmail account so she could advertise herself to make money. Things between them felt different because she felt like she had to do what he asked.
After creating her own email account, Tone took pictures of her and told her to upload them to the site. Anika was hesitant because she didn't know what was going to happen, but his brother’s girlfriend advised her to do what they asked, and that everything would be fine. Anika said, “The calls started coming in so quickly.”
Today, Anika shares her story with new Voices girls and has even participated in a TEDx youth speech to try and help other people in similar situations.
When she ended up in a hotel room, she realized what was really happening and she knew she wanted out. She told Tone and his brother she didn't want to do it anymore and they told her she could leave if she wanted. But, as she gathered her clothes, Tone and his brother started hitting her. She was too afraid to fight back. They pushed her out of the hotel door and told her they never wanted to see her again.
Anika knew she could turn to Voices group for help. Our staff worked quickly to get her photos taken down. She was so ashamed, and she didn't want anyone to see them. She begged the staff not to file a police report and did not want to disclose any more information because she thought, not only would Tone hurt her, but she was even more afraid that she she would be shamed by everyone she knew. Today, Anika shares her story with new Voices girls and has even participated in a TEDx youth speech to try and help other people in similar situations.