Marq Taylor was only 11 years old when a man he and his 14 siblings looked up to as an uncle, guided him into a world of commercial sexual exploitation –– and trafficked him from that age until 17.
Capturing the fullest attention of a group of secondary school boys, as they sat in a quiet Prince Cave Hall Auditorium at District A Police Station this morning, teacher Taylor, who is visiting from Mableton, Georgia, United States, told them male sex trafficking was real.
The brave 43-year-old advocate, in the fight against domestic minor sex trafficking, is urging young males in Barbados not to be scared to tell if they are being sexually assaulted and exploited.
How did Taylor get to travel the world, sharing his own story of victimization, to educate others about this horrific crime which can touch lives the wrong way?
In sixth grade, Taylor started having trouble with mathematics, and his grades in that subject began to drop.
Moving from an A to F, the student suggested to his parents that he needed help, and they proposed he ask his “uncle” Charles [not the individual’s real name], as he had a sound grasp of the subject.
“One day, I went to Charles and I said, ‘Charles I am struggling and I need your help’. He said, ‘Okay, I know’. It started out fine. When I got home from school, he was there waiting for me to work on maths,” Taylor recalled.
Six months down the road, a twist was introduced to that session –– for the worse!
Charles could not make it to Taylor’s house for the tutoring sessions any more, and he suggested the child come to his –– as was allowed by Taylor’s parents. The tutoring continued.
One day, Charles asked Taylor: “What are you gonna do for me?”
The advocate said he recalled asking his mentor what he meant.
Charles responded: “You know; you like to help people.”
This fact was not denied by Taylor, who was accustomed to helping his siblings.
As the evening went on, a persistent Charles continued to ask Taylor the question.
“He said, ‘Well, I need you to touch me’.
“[I replied], ‘Touch you? Man, you gotta be crazy’. He said, ‘My back hurts; rub my back for me’. So I said, ‘I am not doing that’.
“His response to me was, ‘If you don’t, I am telling your parents that you approached me.
“So I rubbed his back and went back to doing some work. He came back [and said], ‘My back hurts a little lower; rub lower’. I said, ‘Okay’,” Taylor said.
This went on for about a month; but then it got deeper. Charles started asking the young student to touch him in other places. At first, Taylor declined; but after continual threats of Charles contacting his parents, the frightened child carried out the requests.
It moved from Taylor providing sex orally to providing other sexual favours. Then Charles started inviting his friends over for Taylor to grant them these services too.
“It went from he and his friends playing basketball and winning the games to where we would go to smoke-out parties –– where you are in a house and the lights are dimmed and they are smoking getting high.
“I am put in a room and I watch for a light to come on. When that light came on, it meant someone else was coming,” explained the child survivor, who had to hand over to Charles any money given him for these sessions.
Reaching his limit and wishing to suffer the trauma no more, Taylor, now 14, decided to tell his parents, who had noticed he had changed from being a jovial lad to a distant individual with an attitude who preferred to stay in his room.
“Their response to me was, ‘Boy, stop lying! We don’t believe you. He is your uncle; he has been around for years. What are you talking about? He knew you from when you were born’.
“My mum told me, ‘Go to your room!’ and my dad told me, ‘If you say something like that again, I am going to put you out of the house’,” Taylor related of the bitter memories.
So, the young schoolboy continued to be withdrawn, having no choice but to return to the tutoring sessions of Charles, since he continued to fail in maths.
Taylor too tried to reach out to his brothers and sisters; but they also accused him of lying.
In an effort to bury his sorrows, he even ran away to a friend’s house; and he stopped going to lessons at Charles’. But the mentor would have none of it, showing up at Taylor’s school one evening and informing him his parents had sent him to collect him.
Charles forced the lad into his car.
“We drove for nearly two hours . . . to like a hotel. Charles said to me, ‘My team won the championship and this is where we are staying at just to relax, have fun and party’.
“So we entered the hotel, went upstairs; and as we walked into the room and got to where the bedroom area was, there was five other gentlemen there. Charles said to me, ‘You have to service all six of us’.
Taylor recalled a light went on in his head and he immediately started screaming while being grabbed by the men who had snatched off his clothes. Escaping their clutches, hands, he jumped through a window on the second floor of the building.
Naked, Taylor ran down the street where he spotted a lady who, he noted, did not take him to the nearest police station, but rather home to his parents –– two hours away.
“She expressed to my family, ‘I don’t know where he is coming from. I don’t know what happened to him. but I don’t believe him’.
Taylor said his father beat him because he had brought a stranger to the house, after which his mother asked him to leave.
“. . . I was beaten to the point where I lost sight in my left eye. To this day, there is a prosthetic inside. So I can’t see in my left eye.
“When I jumped out the window, I ran and I ran and I broke my ankle. When I did go to the emergency room about my ankle, my parents were telling them, ‘He fell’, and I was like, ‘No, that’s not what happened’,” he said.
On approaching his 17th birthday, to forget about his problem, Taylor joined his state’s youth choir, which he said would have facilitated travelling.
“Eventually [during a practice session] I saw Charles sitting at the back of the room. I was the smallest in the choir, and I was backing up . . . and everybody else was pushing me to the front. But I was backing up.”
Charles indicated again he had been sent by Taylor’s parents, to which the teenager objected. And, members of the choir chased his “uncle” out of the church, bringing an end to Charles attempts at exploiting the young boy.
Charles did not face any charges for abuse of Taylor, for at that time there were no state laws dealing with male trafficking.
Though reeling in emotional pain, Taylor kept this aspect of his life closed for 20 plus years, talking to those closest to him only about it. He only started telling his story publicly three years ago while being interviewed by a panel for a job in the social system –– and he began to cry.
“She [the interviewer] said, ‘What is wrong?’ and I said, ‘What you’re telling me about the job is what I have been through’. We talked and we talked, and I realized it was time for me . . . to go out there and tell my story,” said the grade teacher.
It took a while, but for his own peace of mind and clear conscience, the sex trafficking survivor has begun forgiving those who had contributed to that hurtful experience.
His father has since died.
He speaks to his mother as frequently as possible, in an effort to build a bond between her and his ten-year-old twins, whose mother, his wife, died nine years ago in a car accident.
“What [Charles] did to me, I yet love him; because that’s what The Bible tells me I have to do. Within the last four years, he called me and apologized for what he had done.
“He said, ‘I am calling you to apologize to you; to say I now have colon cancer and when I die, I don’t want to go to hell knowing what I did to you: hurt you,” related Taylor, who received the Male Overcomer Of The Year
Award 2014 from Restore One Life out of Greenville, North Carolina.
As for the lady who took him home to his parents after he had escaped from the hotel and potential abuse, Taylor has forgiven her too. Actually, when he returned to high school at 23, that same woman was his teacher. And she walked the journey with him until he graduated.
Taylor participates in the Georgia Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force and collaborates with national organizations to protect children from sex slavery.
He also took part in the first ever listening session that President Barak Obama held with local, state, and national agencies on domestic minor sex trafficking and labour trafficking.
“I implore teachers, I implore parents, that if you know someone that is a happy person and outgoing, and all of a sudden is [withdrawn], I implore you to start asking questions. “If you know someone whose grades are up high and they start coming down low, something is going on. Not saying it is sexual trafficking, but it could be something else,” Taylor advised.
This morning’s guest speaker at Prince Cave Hall will also be addressing a National Youth Session at New Dimension Ministries in Barbarees Hill at 7 p.m. on Friday night. At 10 a.m. on Saturday, he will be at a men’s conference at BIDC Building #2, Harbour Road.
Taylor was brought to the island by the Women Of Purpose Ministry and the Drug Education And Counselling Services.