What would I like Nevada to be known for?
When I was a child, my family would make trips up to the Lake Tahoe and the Reno area for hiking trips, snow days, beach days and firework shows. We would get dinner at classic style restaurants, visit family during the holidays and take in the serene views Nevada has to offer.
The mountain was an escape for peace. When I was a teenager, this all changed for me. These moments of peace we use to be so thrilled to endeavor on turned into a 3 year confinement of hell. When I think of Nevada, the memories of building snowmen, making sand castles on the beach in Tahoe or enjoying a classic style hamburger, are over shadowed with misery, distrust, paranoia, a lack of empathy and the deepest moments of pain in my life NO TEENAGER should ever have to experience or feel EVER.
In 2012, when I was 17 years old. I was approached online by a 48 year old man who sought out to destroy my innocence, abuse the amount of power he holds within the community and permanently change the direction of my life. My goals and dreams I had quickly became nightmares. Science shows that the brain does not fully develop until the age of 25. For those struggling with mental health or learning disabilities, even later. The internet is at its peak, causing a fast, never ending update to the tools most children, nowadays, are required to learn to just complete their homework. This is due to the technological advance we have had in the last few decades, that isn’t gonna stop and is only getting newer and easier for a perpetrator to infiltrate. So why hasn’t law advanced within Nevada to keep up?
You have to be 21 to enjoy a cocktail at the bar, purchase a pack of cigarettes, and at most places, to check into a hotel room. But a 48 year old, only has to wait for a child to turn 16, to engage in sex? The advantages someone who is over the age of 25, compared to a 16 year old high school student are endless. By the age of 25, You could have a career by then, a degree in college, a nice car, a house you own, but what does the 16 year old have? Homework and chores to finish. The power dynamic that pertains here gives an advantage that NO 16 year old, despite how intuitive and stubborn some may be, stands a chance against.
For example, Say you were looking at job applicants to hire someone for a position at your company. You see one person with years of work experience, a car to get to work with and a degree from college. The next applicant, is still finishing high school, has a learners permit to drive, a workers permit you have to sign off on and has no experience that relates to you company, who are you more likely to hire?
When I came forward to the police, it was to help his next victim. I spent over 10 years being afraid of him due to the amount of power this man holds within the Lake Tahoe area. When he first approached me, he spent time planting seeds of intimidation in my mind by first showing me pictures of himself with numerous celebrities, such as Tony Bennett, Will Ferrell, Chelsea Handler and even Cher. I witnessed him yelling at his employees and saw his face turn bright red and the vein on the side of his neck pop out. He showed me what money was and what power comes with it to ensure I would NEVER stand up to him. For years, I thought I would never stand a chance against him if I had tried to put a stop to the harm he causes. So for years after escaping, I searched for various ways to forget what had happened to me, but due to the life long sentence abuse like this causes, I failed each time. So I began my research, I built my confidence up and I finally worked up the courage to come forward to the Police department. In the movies, when Police take on cases like mine, we see swat cars, sting operations and brilliant lawyers stopping at nothing to bring justice to the victim and boy do they have it wrong. When I had explained what I had survived to the Douglas County Sheriff’s office I was met with the answer I assume most teenagers get when they decide to come forward. “The age of consent is 16” “you consented to this” “We don’t see evidence of coercion” I was declined justice because of a law written decades ago and medieval training Nevada police officers implied to me that they receive. The amount of pain and fear that I had spent years pushing away, came back almost instantly causing a spiral of symptoms to return that I thought I had gained control over. When I had mentioned what grooming was and tried to self advocate for myself, It felt as though they just didn’t believe me, or had never even heard of the word before and didn’t care. Who would allow a 17 year old to have sex with a 48 year old man? Who would allow a teenager to live in a casino hotel room for over a year? Who would fall for a lie that I was my abusers “Nephew” ? Who fails to protect vulnerable teenagers because of a bunch of laws written based on times we still used antennas with our Television sets? Nevada. The lack of protections for teens within the state cause great harm and the archaic laws written are benefitting the predators, not the victims. With the structure of these laws, and the training law enforcement receives still to this day, Nevada is becoming a safe haven for those grooming and trafficking our youth. These master manipulators and predators are aware of the holes within Nevada law, the lack of education and training police receive and use them to their advantage to keep abusing and preying on the innocent. Nevada is capable of being more than just casinos, brothels, drugs, money and sex.
So why isn’t anything being done to update the laws and why are we still allowing this to continue? Nevada is the only state that allows prostitution to be legal AND have their age of consent be 16. Prostitution may only be legal in licensed brothels, but do you really think that’s the only place it is happening at? The answer is definitely NO. As a survivor, I would like to see Nevada be known for the beautiful nature it holds, not the abuse it is enabling.