With stiff shoulders and a stinging neck, Tiffany lifted her head from the hotel bed and tried to make out the faces of the men were who were sitting near.
"Where am I?" she said, her voice barely above a whisper. The two men laughed at her. She looked down. She had no clothes on. She pulled herself out of the bed and stumbled to the bathroom. A mirror revealed what had been done to her. She was beaten nearly beyond recognition.
Tiffany Mester's life is one of extraordinary abuses. Her earliest memory was sleeping on a stain-covered mattress with her mom in a crack house. She was three years old.
When the state took her away, Tiffany, then five years old, went to live with her dad who was married to a woman with her own kids and didn't take kindly to a newcomer. Tiffany's new stepmom physically and emotionally abused her relentlessly as a result. Because her dad loved his wife so much and his drugs, Tiffany became his target too.
Each night as she went to bed, Tiffany thought of the God she had heard about in a Sunday school class and her mom. She made a space on either side of her. One place for God, whom she loved, and one place for the devil, whom her stepmom loved.
As the years went on, the beatings and abuses continued. From early on, when the pain was at its worst or the fear was its most horrifying, Tiffany would tell herself that everything was going to be okay one day soon. Just up ahead
, she would tell herself, something good is coming.
"nothing more than a prostitute"
A friend of her father's would come to the house to visit. When he was alone with Tiffany, he would touch her. When her stepmom saw that something physical was happening between them, she blamed Tiffany, who was just 10 years old. With her finger in Tiffany's face, she screamed that she would never be anything more than a prostitute. Tiffany just believed her stepmom was telling her the truth.
When her father found out that his wife was having an affair, he kicked her out of the house.
Hopelessly addicted to speed, her dad would go away for weeks and leave the house empty of any food. Tiffany would go to a nearby orchard and steal cherries just to stay alive.
When she was 13, she moved in again with her mom and her half sister. One night, her half sister convinced Tiffany to run away. They partnered with two boys and made a break for it.
When they set up a temporary home in a motel, her sister told her she would have to make money to stay with them. "How?" asked Tiffany.
Her sister pointed to the street.
Coming under the rule of a pimp who also doubled as her boyfriend, he forced her to work the streets under an ever-increasing quota the last being $2,500 per night. Her life of having to meet a quota to keep from being brutalized went on for two years. On the night when she didn't meet it, he beat and raped her, just as he had threatened.
On the streets, she was battered by johns, raped, threatened at gunpoint and was forced to jump out of a car on the freeway as someone tried to kidnap her.
When her pimp was arrested and imprisoned, she fell into the arms of another man offering love and security. But her life continued its downward spiral: Tiffany and her new boyfriend held people up at gunpoint and smuggled drugs and people across the American-Mexican border. She also used marijuana to dull the pain of life lived so close to the edge. All the while, Tiffany stayed in school and kept a part-time job. Have to prepare for something better
, she thought. Something good is just up ahead.
"We're both dying tonight!"
Tiffany got pregnant with twins and when she miscarried, her boyfriend was so strung out on crystal meth, his grief turned suicidal and homicidal. "We're both dying tonight!" he exclaimed as he threatened to kill them both. When he left to complete a drug delivery, she fled.
Turning 19 years old, the truth about the trajectory of her existence was starting to emerge. For the first time, she started to see with some clarity the shambles of her life. She had heard that if you get closer to God, blessings come. That's what I'm going to do,
she thought. I'm going to turn a new leaf. I'm going to get closer to God.
Was it wishful thinking from a girl at her wit's end? Or was it a fist-in-the-air threat to Satan and his hold on her?
A chance meeting with a friend of her now ex-boyfriend turned into an invitation to a Super Bowl party. They sat together, along with many of his friends, and ate and drank and watched the game. This is fun,
she thought. I"m having a good time. Nice, for a change.
Suddenly, she started to feel drowsy.
Running out of the hotel so nobody would ask her why she was covered in bruises, she chased down a bus and took it home.
After trying to sleep for a couple of hours, she pulled her swollen body out of bed and put on her clothes. She was going to school, bruises or not, black eyes and all. She took a deep breath and bravely walked on campus, much to the horror of all she came in contact with.
While in class, her wrist was throbbing with pain. She pulled back the sleeve of her sweatshirt to reveal a large purple handprint on her wrist. Suddenly all that had happened to her burst into her consciousness. She remembered everything: the beating, the rape, the humiliation of being watched by the others at the Super Bowl party.
She closed her eyes. Something good will come,
she told herself for the umpteenth time. Just keep holding on.
"I'm never coming back."
Months later, a student saw her in the library. He asked her if she believed in God. The conversation led him to ask her to join him at the Rock Church.
He had remembered her because of the bruises that covered her face.
Arriving at the Rock on a Sunday morning, she was hours early. She nervously paced in the parking lot, puffing on a cigarette. Somehow she began to regret her decision to come. "God, you've got one shot at me because I'm never coming back." She felt a tugging at her soul. Little did she know the battle being waged.
She made it inside the Rock sanctuary and was shocked to hear the gospel message given by a former high-end escort. It shook Tiffany to her foundation. All these people are sitting here listening to a girl with that kind of a past? God is using her? God can use me!
Her mom had always told her to be ashamed of what she was doing with her life. To see the JC's girl stand triumphantly on that stage meant everything to her. She broke down.
Then she broke through.
Tiffany's parched and dusty soul drank the gospel message with desperation. She gave her life to Jesus Christ, the only One able and unafraid to reach into her past and set her free from everything that she had done and had been done to her.
For Tiffany, something good
has happened. Her past has been wiped away.
Today, she is dealing with her abuses by turning them over to God on a moment-by-moment basis. Through her healing journey the brokenness of her abuse has become a strength to her as she leads the outreach program for Hidden Treasures Foundation. She has also found great joy in fulfilling her purpose—she gives her testimony and educates on human trafficking at conferences, trainings, youth events and other forms of media. She tells girls caught in the sex trade, “You’re a victim. And every victim needs a Savior.”
For the first time, she is excited about life. “I’m being used by God to do something good! Something good, can you believe it?”