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Modern Heroes

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

my life.

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:

Human Trafficking interviews with Media4Humanity Founder Melanie Siben

Sharks of the Nation

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