This is part four in a four-part series on human trafficking.
Written by: Shana Fillatrau and Shanelle Somers
“I got out of the car and one of the pimps hit me, drugged me, they bring me upstairs, I wake up, two guys are raping me, and then they made me shower.”
This is what happened to Markie Dell after innocently agreeing to attend her co-worker’s birthday party.
Dell was 19-years-old working as a waitress in Hamilton, Ont. She was shy and didn’t know her co-worker well but she still accepted the invitation to go.
What she didn’t know was her co-worker was a victim of human trafficking trying to appease her pimp by recruiting a new girl.
Dell was picked up from her house and taken to a party. She says she was uncomfortable the whole night. She didn’t know this at the time but the co-worker’s pimps were there and their plan was to recruit her.
Dell stayed at the co-worker’s house for the night. The next day, things were a lot different.
Her co-worker demanded Dell give her $600, for the rental car, the drinks and staying at her house.
When Dell said she didn’t have the money, the co-worker dropped her off at a strip club and told her to make the money. She was threatened and told, “You don’t even want to know what will happen if you don’t do this.”
Dell was forced to dance on stage in front of people she knew, ruining her reputation.
Once Dell had made enough money, they drove back to the co-worker’s house where one of the co-worker’s pimps hit her, drugged her and dragged her upstairs. When she woke up, two men were raping her.
“It was basically day after day, it would be like that. They would threaten me and my family. They took my phone, my I.D.s, so I had no access. They just cut everyone off from me,” Dell said.
Dell was expected to run errands for her pimps, like grocery shopping, but they would time her. She also had to work at the club, but if she didn’t make enough money dancing, then she would have to make up for the loss.
The only people Dell had the opportunity to talk to were her clients. The clients would offer her a place to live, though she knew she wouldn’t be safe with them. So she continued to live with her former co-worker.
During that time, the pimps and her co-worker were planning to make a big move. She said, “I was going to [move] to Hawaii, get branded, sign a condo lease. I was like ‘I gotta go get out of here’ because I would have been way more stuck.”
One of Dell’s clients offered to pay for a motel room, so she didn’t have to stay with him. She could live alone and have time to sort things out . She said she left the club with nothing, just the bikini and heels she was wearing.
The client brought her food every day and made her service him in exchange. This arrangement lasted approximately a month.
From her motel, she phoned a man she dated in the past. He said she could come stay with him but he didn’t have a lot of money to take care of her. She said this was fine, just as long as she could get away from the client.
After two weeks of living there, he said she owed him money and needed to pay his mortgage. He was addicted to Oxycontin and she needed to help pay for his drug habit.
Dell says he knew the owner of Hamilton Strip, and he said she needed to go work there. She said she’d do anything but strip but he told her that she couldn’t do anything else.
Dell says, “I was there for a while, and then the owner actually called the cops and that’s how it all ended.”
She worked at the strip club for two or three months. After she left the strip club, Dell tried to seek sanctuary in a safe house. But this house wasn’t safe at all.
Dell says the women running the safe house made Dell perform sexual acts for her friends and some of the volunteers, “So it was f**ked up.”
The women is still a huge name in human trafficking prevention in Canada.
Dell was asked by her to do a fundraiser. She was promised that her college would be paid for or she would receive a car. She says she did the fundraiser, raised a lot of money and never heard from her again.
“She just took the $10,000 and left. So that’s my experience in a safe house,” she said.
Dell said despite the woman’s misdeeds, another woman who worked there became her mentor. She has helped Dell for the past seven years.
“She’s helped me through everything. 24/7, I can call her anytime.”
As far as counsellors or any kind of social worker, Dell says they’re “not okay.” She said the counsellors are too judgmental and don’t know how to deal with the “taboo” subject.
Dell said a counsellor gave her a colouring book and another one just told her to stop feeling negative.
In terms of prevention techniques, Dell was excited to hear about the organizations working with young women and their self-esteem in the Durham Region. “That’s huge. That’s so big,” she said.
In terms of her six months in human trafficking, Dell said it all became a routine for her, almost normal. “You change as a person. I was a happy person, ditzy and stuff like how I am now, but you become hardened,” she said.
She said everyone involved hardens.
“The girls at the club are like the same way, they’re hardened, they’re b**ches, they’re threatening to kill you, they’ll fight in the locker room. I basically did drugs all the time. My customers would give me drugs and I would be wasted all day, all the time.”
People wonder why she couldn’t just leave. She said the pimps would leave the door unlocked, but she had to worry about what would happen if she did try and escape. They knew where she lived and they threatened to kill her dog.
“They had a can of gasoline in the motel so they threatened to light me on fire if I left. So, it’s like the door’s unlocked but I’m not moving anywhere any time soon,” she said.
After Dell got out, she still had clients and worked on her own or with another girl. It took three to seven years to get back to a “normal” life.
Dell says she had a lot of “mental chains” she had to break through.
Now, Dell is selling cars in Hamilton and says she’s only just started feeling better.
“A lot of people who have gone through it haven’t done much healing, this is like seven years ago, and I just feel normal now. The past few months I feel sane,” she said
She has had a boyfriend for the past year and a half.
For the first year, she had major trust issues. Now she says, “I trust him and see things for what it is. I know that not all men are the same.”
For Dell going forward, there are many things she would like people to know.
She would like people to “educate boys, not just girls, on the repercussions and evil of what pimping really is.”
She also wants better training in hospitals and clinics. “I feel like people should know to treat women the same because my experience in hospitals, I was labelled a prostitute. Like, I didn’t have a name, I was a prostitute. Do you know how degrading that is?”
Finally, she says, trust your gut feeling. “Because that could prevent a lot.”