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Even though in Highschool I was a star pupil and class president, but when my family found out I was gay, they would not accept me. So I tried to become the person that I thought others wanted me to be. But the fear, anger and secrets festered in me.

 

I began to rebel, turning to drugs and alcohol. I withdrew from family and friends. One month before high school graduation, I left home and dropped out of school. Homeless, penniless, and alone, I sought out relationships with older men I knew could support me and my growing substance abuse issues.

 

Then I met a man on a dating app and everything changed. 

He told me about the amazing, glamorous life that he lived – traveling the world, attending high-profile gay events and exclusive clubs.

 

He was charming and I believed I could trust him. He seemed to have the solution to my problems. He would teach me how to do massage therapy and I could live the glamorous and exciting life he offered.

 

The other men who travelled with him were not massage therapists, but escorts. They convinced me I could make much more money as an escort too. I thought I was in control, that I was making these decisions. Instead, I was being used for my trafficker’s profit.

 

Eventually, I had a breakdown and became homeless. A stranger found me beaten up and took me to the hospital where I was given an opportunity to go to rehab. This was the beginning of the road to my recovery.

 

I have recently celebrated three years of sobriety. I am so proud of my recovery. I no longer live in my trauma, but in my strength. I fell in love and have built a life with an amazing, loving partner. I also went back to school and became a certified massage therapist.

I CRIED WHEN I GOT MY MASSAGE THERAPIST CERTIFICATE, BECAUSE I REALIZED THINGS HAD GONE FULL CIRCLE AND THAT I HAD MADE SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL OUT OF MY PAST.

--ABE

Story sourced from the Polaris Project. All pictures shown are for representation purposes only and are commercially available portraits. We have taken great care to change names and identifying details for Survivor’s confidentiality and protection