Melanie Siben Interviews the most resilient, determined souls in America, starting with Pavandeep
Kaur Khalsa, a brave survivor of child trafficking and a hero to all of us
Melanie Siben: What in your background are you willing to share?
Pavandeep: I was born into a pretty normal family, at least they
appeared normal on the outside. My mother and her brothers were
all alcoholics and addicts. My mother’s addiction began to affect
me at a very young age. When I was 13 years old, I went to live
with her and it felt like I was living in a crack house. That’s when I
started being trafficked. Eventually I was sold to a “family friend”
named John. He was drug dealer who claimed he worked for the
DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration). John was an all around
nefarious character who controlled me.
Melanie: How did he control you?
Pavandeep: Through coercion, threats and abuse. He drugged and
tortured me while he trafficked me for about a year, maybe a little
longer. After that time period another man, named Norman who
had been a customer, “rescued” me from that situation. At first I
really thought that this man had my best interests in mind, but he
too kept me drugged, held me captive in a house, abused me, not
so much trafficked me, but used me as bait to commit crimes. This
went on for another year or so.
Melanie: What happened after those two years?
Pavandeep: After I escaped, I was picked up by the police and I tried to explain to them what had happened to me. They told
me I was a drug addict and a prostitute and threw me in the
juvenile detention center. I went through the system – juvenile
detention, a detox center and inpatient treatment-- and ended up
being released to my family again. Investigators would constantly
question my family, from age twelve on, but like I previously
mentioned, I came from a seemingly normal family. I went to a
private Catholic school and I was well fed. They didn’t have any
reason to believe there was any abuse going on. Therefore, the
abuse continued to escalate and when I was 15 years old I went to
a treatment center.
Melanie: Did the treatment center help?
Pavandeep: Well, I was addicted to drugs, even after treatment.
Although I learned a lot, there was no such thing as “Trauma
Informed Care”, so when counselors would come to me and say
things like, “we know about the prostitution” it didn’t help with
the trauma or shame. The experience of what had happened to me
was never framed as something that had been done to me. Local
police came out and took reports but there was never any follow
up or investigations. Within a year of being treated, I had been
in the juvenile system on and off for years. By the time I was 17
years old, I was back in front of a judge and was faced with being
adjudicated as an adult with a potential five years of prison time.
This is probably the first time I experienced a miracle happening in
Melanie: What was the miracle?
Pavandeep: A woman who was the Assistant Director at the
treatment center that I had previously been in came to court and
advocated for me. She stated that the system had failed me and that
sending me to prison would be unjust and undeserved. She knew
that I deserved another chance. They withheld adjudication and
sent me back to the same treatment center I had gotten out of when
I was 16.
Melanie: So much suffering at such a young age! How did this
make you feel about yourself?
Pavandeep: I still carried with me that I was a teenage prostitute
and that I did this to myself and it was because I was a drug addict.
The next few years I put all of my energy into making it appear like
I had [my act] together. Really inside I felt like I was dying. Simply
maintaining life as an empty shell and I struggled with addictive
substances that were deemed acceptable by society like alcohol
and prescribed medications.
Part 2 of Melanie Siben’s interview with Pavandeep appears in an
upcoming blog edition of “Sharks of the Nation.”
To learn more about and support the work of Pavandeep, visit:
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