18 months in hell!


Jamaica Gleaner - - FRONT PAGE - Ja­son Cross Gleaner Writer ja­son.cross@glean­erjm.com

SHAMERE MCKEN­ZIE re­cently cap­tured the at­ten­tion of many as she gave a heart-wrench­ing ac­count of how she was traf­ficked and forcibly put to work as a pros­ti­tute on the streets of the United States. She was lured into the sex-sell­ing busi­ness af­ter she came up short on her col­lege tu­ition fees.

A past stu­dent of West­wood High, McKen­zie gave her tes­ti­mony dur­ing the launch of a USAID-funded Univer­sity of Tech­nol­ogy (UTech)-Fi Wi Ja­maica Project and Ah Yard Com­mu­ni­ca­tions’ anti-hu­man traf­fick­ing train­ing pro­gramme, in as­so­ci­a­tion with Air­line Am­bas­sadors In­ter­na­tional.

McKen­zie went to a col­lege in the US on a full ath­let­ics scholarship, but said she was over­worked by her coach and sub­se­quently suf­fered a bad ham­string in­jury.

“I re­mem­ber run­ning 200m in prac­tice and I pulled my ham­string,” she said dur­ing the launch at the Terra Nova All-Suite Ho­tel in St Andrew.

“When I went back to him and said, ‘I pulled my ham­string’, he would say, ‘Go to the trainers’. I went to the trainers and they put me in an ice bath and all their fancy stuff. Then I would go back to him. There was this race; every­one was pass­ing me be­cause I had an in­jured ham­string. The other coaches said, ‘Pull her out of the race.’ My coach cared about the points. At the end of the meet, he said, ‘I don’t know if I am go­ing to re­new your scholarship next se­mes­ter’. I said, ‘Coach, thanks for your scholarship, but I will not be run­ning for you any­more’,” she out­lined.

She left, and from there, ev­ery­thing spun up­side down.


A DES­PER­ATE Shamere McKen­zie was try­ing to fig­ure out how to keep her­self in col­lege when she met some­one who ap­peared to be the right per­son at the right time.

“I did what other col­lege stu­dents did – ap­ply for fi­nan­cial aid – but then, I was US$3,000 short, so I de­cided to work,” McKen­zie re­called.

“One day, I went to UPS and, while cross­ing the street, I saw a car com­ing. A man came out and he ex­tended his hand and said, ‘Good af­ter­noon, young lady’. I was, like, ‘This is my type of guy be­cause the guys in New York are usu­ally, like, ‘Yow maa, wad up?’”

He re­quested her num­ber un­der the guise that he was in­ter­ested in her, so they ex­changed num­bers. It wasn’t long be­fore they started get­ting in­volved in in­tel­lec­tual con­ver­sa­tions that she en­joyed.

That led to her shar­ing cer­tain de­tails with him.

“We had great con­ver­sa­tions un­til I shared with him that I was try­ing to work to get US$3,000 to go back to school. He said, ‘I will help you. I have a base­ment apart­ment that I won’t charge you for’.” She took up the of­fer. Af­ter ac­cept­ing the of­fer, he quickly lured her into a trap.

“He said, ‘You could make more money, and all you have to do is dance.’ I heard that a lot of girls danced to pay for school, so there was noth­ing wrong with me danc­ing, so I thought ‘let me try it out’,” McKen­zie said.


She jumped into an ex­pe­ri­ence of 18 months’ worth of “tor­ture”.

McKen­zie stressed that the vi­o­lent na­ture of traf­fick­ers even­tu­ally let them do what they want with their vic­tims, who usu­ally have lit­tle hope of be­ing freed.

“Es­cape? I tried that. The first time I es­caped, my pun­ish­ment was be­ing sodomised.”

She high­lighted that mil­lions glob­ally ex­pe­ri­ence this type of mod­ern-day slav­ery, where they are not only con­trolled phys­i­cally, but are also brain­washed and are usu­ally moved around from place to place for the sole pur­pose of sell­ing sex.

Her aim nowa­days is to en­lighten per­sons, par­tic­u­larly women, that any­one can end up be­ing traf­ficked and could pos­si­bly end up in a worse sit­u­a­tion than she did, so they ought to be mind­ful and vig­i­lant.

We had great con­ver­sa­tions un­til I shared with him that I was try­ing to work to get US$3,000 to go back to school. He said, ‘I will help you. I have a base­ment apart­ment that I won’t charge you for.’

Shamere McKen­zie, ad­vo­cate against hu­man traf­fick­ing, and Deputy Su­per­in­ten­dent Carl Berry, head of the Anti-Traf­fick­ing in Per­sons Unit.

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