Survivor of Sex Slavery, Filmmaker, Author, Actress, Advocate, Brook Bello
Brook Bello; is a Survivor of Human-Trafficking which she calls (soul-assassination). She is also an author, public speaker, actress, film- maker and singer of a unique style of gospel contemporary music. Her story and movement was seen in several magazines and newspapers including feature stories in ESSENCE July, 2012 and EBONY October 2012, as well as 700 Club and other magazines, newspapers and e-zines.
Brook has recently been "keynote" speaker for/at many events for corporations, universities, and has spoken before and with members of congress. These include the recent SMS (stop modern slavery walk) in DC, the human-trafficking forum as well as,the Congressional Black Caucus and is the 2012/13 spokesperson against human- trafficking for the International Black Woman's Pubic Policy Institute as was with them at the CBC Human-Trafficking Forum on the Hill.
Brook has recently been ordained by Dr and Pastor Beverly Bam Crawford in Los Angeles at BEFIC church.
Brook's ground-breaking and important film "Survivor" which premiered at the 65th Annual Festival De Cannes in a private screening at Cinema Du Monde of the 82 minute version with Agoralumiiere under Marc Nekaiter and Josie Di'Angelo where Brook was graced to speak to an international audience. The Film also viewed at Marche Du Film at the short film corner where Brook created a short version of the movie. "Survivor" is a Documentary True Life Movie about the sex-trade, sex-slavery and abuse. It shares her road to and the picking up of the pieces of life once free from a pillaged and raped young womb.
There have been many occasions where I have had the opportunity to be inspired about the human spirit and about our ability , as human beings, to endure. I can count on one hand the number of times that I have been rendered speechless and in awe of someone after experiencing their raw heroism. Brook Bello is such a person. Her story is extraordinary.
DR: How did you become trapped in the world of human sex trafficking? And, I am particularly interested as a mom of a teenage girl. I think it's an important issue and one that is deeply emotional, in a particular way for mothers.
BB: I was raped when I was eleven years old.
When you are eleven you are really still a baby. I was obviously still a virgin. I probably looked like I was seven years. I was little and petite.
Being violated at eleven drastically changed my life. Look at the statistics of girls who are pushed and sold into sex slavery. There is usually an economic challenge at home or there is brokenness in the parent or the child.
I grew up in a home that was violent. My mother was very horribly treated by stepfathers and such. She was hit and beaten up. Seeing that and then losing my virginity through rape - I had never seen a penis before. I didn't even know what sperm was. I was just this creative kid; this sweet little girl and I did not understand any of that. It shattered my world. It shattered everything.
DR: Was it somebody that you trusted?
BB: It was and statistically it usually is. Unfortunately.
DR: So then what happened?
BB: Then when we ran away from home and we got taken. We got taken.
DR: Who is "we"?
BB: I ran away with my best friend. We were pretty much snatched. Some people took us out to dinner. We were runaways and we thought they were really nice. They seemed really cool. We were innocent and trusting.
DR: You were eleven?
BB: No. I was raped when I was eleven. We ran away when I was fifteen and a half.
DR: And who were these people that took you again? What happened?
BB: There were several things that happened and it's too long to go into the whole story...
There was couple that said that they were brother and sister. We realized later that they were not. We were homeless. We had been homeless for a bit. They saw us and they took us out to eat and took us for a drive. They were really nice and we were trusting. They seemed really cool.
Then they asked us if we wanted to go back to their place and get cleaned up. They told us they had extra clothes that we could take. Once we got there, their faces changed. It reminded me of the film The Devil's Advocate where seemingly nice people were running a game on us. We really didn't have a sense of discernment at our age. Their faces really changed. We went from having nice full bellies and nice happy faces, to them slamming us against the walls and pulling out knives, stripping us of our clothes, beating me up, putting me over the balcony, putting me in a bathtub. Later on, maybe seven hours later, in the middle of the night, I was on the street, being threatened to be killed...
BB: Working. There was a woman who came into our life and promised to be sweet and nice and wonderful. We ended up living in a brothel and one thing led to another. The first couple times we were thrown into it, pushed into it. Beaten up and drugged. By the time the third time came around it was sort of "that's who we were". That is who I was. I didn't really know how to leave at that point.
DR: How long had it been at that point?
BB: At that point it had probably been a good three years. It was a way of life. I was a hardcore drug addict.
To back track just a bit, if you study anyone who studies the brain, the brain doesn't fully develop until you are twenty-four. Anytime, from birth to twenty-four, your brain is growing and evolving and while it is evolving, your identity is forming. It takes longer, often, when working with adults, to bring change and to impact the subconscious on a profound level.
If I am being silly, I have a vernacular for that. No one taught me. It's part of my environment. It's the same with brokenness and "no identity" and thinking that you are below everything.
I was a really creative kid and a really sensitive. And I had been raped. I was already broken. I didn't know what love looked like and to someone who needed love and for someone to pretend to be love when I didn't know what love looked like, you can just get drawn into that. It shatters who you are. Then Stockholm Syndrome sets in, which is associated with rape victims and children that are taken because you are formed by that, you want to go back to it.
Because Life is Meant to be Lived with Your Head Up
An effective and accountable Human-Trafficking of Sex-Slavery Recovery Program ( which I've coined is Soul-Assassination because of the psychosis, emotional damage and life long trauma it creates) it can take years to heal from if at all. There is nothing but time, excellence in therapy care and love that can assist a once victim survivor in discovering their destined and healthy identity that was lost or never developed in the fire of this grave violation of human rights. More Too Life's Above The Noise Restoration and Transformation Plan because Modern Day Slavery must end.
DR: Yes. I've heard of that.
Tell me Brook, do you remember how you felt? Did you live life afraid? Did you have hopes of being rescued? What was your life like in that respect?
BB: At that point I wanted to get out. I didn't know how. You are threatened that you will be killed. You are beaten and told over and over again that you are nothing and that this is who you are, that you are dirt.
Here in the states it's different than in Thailand except for there were young girls. There were girls that were twelve and thirteen that were in the brothel as well.
DR: How is it different in the United States than it is in Thailand?
BB: We coin really bad phrases here such as "teenage prostitution. There is no such thing as teenage prostitution. There is statutory rape. You don't know what you are doing when you are a teenager and people don't see that you are pushed into that and so if you start prostituting and you are pushed into sex slavery when you were eleven and you are still doing it when you are twenty-two, people wonder what is the matter with you. They thnk that is who you are. But you are gone. You are lost. You don't even know who you are.
Who will restore? Who will rescue them?
If you had a family member who is schizophrenic or has some serious anger issues, the family will encourage them to deal with the problem. With some of the young women on the street, and there are boys on the street too, that is not who they are and who they want to be. That is who they have grown to be and no one will rescue them. They are lost.
That is one way that it is different from Thailand. We just throw people away. I know some girls who started being pushed into it with pimps beating them. I remember going back and seeing a sister on the street. She was probably late twenties. Gone. She is dead now. Gone. She was a sex slave but by the time you hit twenty-one, no one is helping you. They just think you made that choice. Not that your brother and your father started raping you at nine years old like the girl that I am mentoring. And that there is a baby in your home by your own father and then by eighteen you run away to get away from that and fall into the hands of a pimp and, there you are.
DR: I think what you are saying is extremely important because I think that this is something that happens that a lot of people don't look at it in the way that it actually is. It is probably happening all around us and because of the way we choose to language it like accepting terms like "teenage prostitution" we don't have to take responsibility. But how do you recognize someone who needs rescuing? I imagine I walk by it everyday. I sit by someone on the train or walk by them at Starbuck's. How do we recognize it and what can we immediately do about it?
BB: Well if you look back in history to the '20's and '30's, you wouldn't see, except for whole families, impoverished people on the street. You wouldn't just see a child on the street. You won't see a lot of American children on the street alone. When you see a teenager on the street and they looked despondent or turned out, that is not normal. We walk by it like it's normal because it's so catastrophe. People become numb, "poor kid. That's just who they are." Meanwhile, they have been beaten and raped and are probably suffering from psychosis. If you see a child on the street, call someone. Call Child Protective Services. Call someone.
Our greatest desire in life is to know and be known. Our greatest desire is to be loved. Without that you become ill.
DR: Brooke, tell me about your film.
BB: The film is called Survivor. It screened at Cannes. I put all my savings into it because, as an actress I was doing really, really well but I was really suicidal.
I had attempted suicide. I had never told anyone about my story. I can remember being underneath a really big fat man in a brothel and the room was full of men. There were drugs all around. I was being raped and I remember staring at the ceiling. This is a very vivid memory. I was completely drugged out. I was crying and I remember thinking that if there was some ray of hope that I could ever get out, I would help girls like me.
When I was going through the process, and I had a lot of success, I stopped. I walked away from success. I bought a house and I just started writing. I knew there had to be more. I was never happy. I had become a woman of faith. I had therapy but nothing was coming together fully because when you leave bondage physically you are still in bondage psychologically. As a woman I know that my ancestors did not become free so that I would live in bondage so I just started writing. This is what I have to do.
I made the film. It's a documentary. It has worldwide distribution. I made the film with the hope that people would be able to learn from my story, and the stories of the other women in the film, what sex slavery is and how we can perhaps heal from it as individuals and as a nation.
DR: How did you get out of the brothel?
BB: Well if you live, you get pushed out at a certain age. Sometimes you get pushed out if you have too many babies or if you are really fertile or when you get your period. I had to have a lot of abortions, which causes another psychosis. But the brothel fell apart. It was in a pretty normal neighborhood. The neighbors started complaining and the Madame who pushed me into it got HIV and everything fell apart and everybody had to move. It was in that window that we could have sort of stayed or broken free. It was at that point that I broke free. I was still on the street for awhile. I was still really addicted to drugs...
DR: But you were on your own...
BB: I was on my own. I got a job as a waitress and slowly started to begin to build a life, little by little by little by little. I just fought everyday. Everyday I fought. I started going to church. That was extremely helpful. The pastor had been molested as a child. Pastor Beverly "Bam" Crawford. She would speak about those things and I met other people who had gone through similar things. I could relate.
I went to acting school and eight months after I signed with The William Morris Agency. That was a miracle.
DR: How old were you?
BB: I was about twenty-five. I started working a lot. But I was very unhappy and couldn't deal with normal question like "Where did you grow up"?
DR: One of the reasons that I think your story is so important is that you were able to get out and be successful as an actress and seem, on the outside, to be okay. People expect that if you are successful that you have a certain kind of background but your story will challenge all of us to consider that just because we think we don't know someone that may have needed our help, your story challenges people to wake up and take responsibility.
A hundred years from now what do you want to be remembered for?
BB: I am raising funds to open a small transitional restoration house for women coming out of sex slavery because I understand what it takes and it is important to give back. I want the program to go on like a sorority many years after I am gone so women will always have a safe healthy place to fall. I want it to be as strong as AA, Alcoholics Anonymous, because it is like that. You have to keep reminding yourself when you look in the mirror that
"I am worthy to be here. I am born as an answer to a problem and I was born for greatness. That is why I am here. It doesn't matter how I got here. It doesn't matter to whom I was born or the economic status or what I went through. But if God is on my side, I can achieve my full potential in life, in my own voice, regardless of what happened yesterday".
That is the most important thing that I want to leave behind.
Also, I have to thank Terrie Williams. I had been studying her book Black Pain. Her book talks a lot about what a victim would feel. She has really helped me.
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