The only child of divorced parents, author Rebecca Bender lived through many adverse childhood experiences, including domestic violence, exposure to an alcoholic father, and poverty. In high school, Rebecca “was a party girl with a lot of friends and no one to teach me boundaries.” She “sought love and attention by saying yes to anyone and anything.” Pregnant at 17, Rebecca hoped that finally she and her boyfriend would create a loving family. When her boyfriend was arrested and sent to jail, her dreams fell apart.
Soon, Rebecca’s life spiraled downward as she became trapped, unbeknownst to her, in a world of human trafficking and sexual exploitation. Repeatedly, relationships she thought would result in true love and a real family led her deeper into the Game, “the lifestyle and industry of human trafficking.” Though she tried to get out and even participated in a program to overcome addiction to drugs and alcohol, she writes, “Both my addiction to money and the craving to love and be loved kept drawing me back to the fast-paced life of the Game.”
Almost daily beatings, psychological manipulation, control over her finances, constant monitoring, dread of what would happen to her when she went to “work” and when she returned home to her abuser, fear for the safety of her child, sleep deprivation, and more combined to bring Rebecca to the brink of suicide. Throughout, some family members and others prayed for her. Sometimes Rebecca heard the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit reminding her that God loved her no matter what choices she had made, his forgiveness was for her too, and he had a better future for her.
This painful, gripping narrative of Rebecca’s ordeal and how God saved her and led her to a life of anti-trafficking advocacy is a hard, but essential read, especially for parents, youth leaders, pastors, campus chaplains, and teachers—anyone who lives with or works with youth and needs to be prepared to spot exploitation and help vulnerable children and teens. The book concludes with two helpful appendixes. The first answers the question, “Are you or someone you know dating a trafficker?” The second describes the power of coercion and is based on a survey asking men who had been convicted of domestic violence to share how they controlled their victims. (Zondervan)