James had always wanted a son; someone he could teach to play football and that would love to go fishing and hunting with him. He was taken back when he found out that the baby on the way wasn’t going to be the son he had always dreamed of but in fact would be a girl. What was he going to do with a daughter? He knew nothing about raising a girl and was no longer quite as excited for his new little one’s arrival.
It took all of about one second to change his mind once he held his sweet Lauren in his arms.
She was a firecracker, full of life and love for everyone that she came in contact with and he was overly protective. After her mom passed away when she was ten Lauren and James grew closer. Once she reached high school, he was navigating a space he wasn’t ready for and doing so alone. Unsure of what else to do James continued to stack on the rules: no dating until your 18, no phone or computer in your bedroom, curfew at 10:00pm. He thought stricter rules meant less chance of something happening to her and Lauren had always done her best to abide by them.
When it came time for Lauren to head off to UC Davis, James was excited and worried, because he didn’t know how to protect her from hours away, so he laid on a few more rules: no drugs or alcohol, no fooling around with boys, no letting your grades drop. If he heard about any of these things happening, he would no longer help her pay for school and she would no longer be welcome at home. James did strict dad well and it had always seemed to work.
Lauren had every intention of obeying her dad’s rules while she was away at school and she did so for the first month or so until she met Cameron. He was older and lived a short distance away in Sacramento. He showered her with praise and always had sweet little presents for her, presents that there was no way she could afford. Lauren had never dated before due to her dad’s rules and she was soaking in every minute she spent with Cameron, it didn’t hurt the he seemed to enjoy spoiling her.
Suddenly Things Changed
One-night Cameron took her to a party in Sacramento, she was excited to finally meet some of his friends and she felt free from her dad’s rules for the first time. That night she had her first sip of alcohol and after some peer pressure from Cameron she smoked for the first time. It didn’t take long for her to black out.
When she woke up the next morning, she felt awful, her head was pounding, and her stomach was all kinds of queasy. Things only got worse when Cameron told her about some of the things, she had done the night before with a few of his friends and to make matters even worse he had the pictures to prove it. She had never been so ashamed in her life. What was her dad going to say? How was she going to pay for school without his help?
Those two questions quickly became the least of her worries when Cameron told her she needed to do more of those things, and she needed to do it for money or he was going to show the pictures to her friends at school and most importantly to her dad. Lauren was devastated, she saw no way out when Cameron demanded she make him $1,000 a week or he would not only share the images, but he would hurt her dad as well.
Later that afternoon Lauren went to Campus Security and told them what had happened. They put her in touch with the UC Davis Police Department but there wasn’t much they could do at the time.
She didn’t feel like telling her new college friends was an option, what would they think of her if they knew? A few had even told her they weren’t sure about Cameron. She could hear the I told you so’s already.
After sitting through class, the next day for what felt like an eternity, she headed to her guidance counselor’s office, her last-ditch effort to get help. Ms. Johnson had never heard a story quite like Lauren’s and told her she would have to do some more research before she could offer any help. Lauren left feeling defeated, she didn’t have time to wait, she needed help now.
Feeling desperate to protect her dad and her reputation she drove back to Cameron’s. He had already arranged for her to meet a few men that night at the hotel near his apartment. She drank and smoked before hoping it would help her survive the next few hours. It numbed her a little but after it was over, she sobbed uncontrollably for hours. Cameron told her to suck it up she was just a prostitute now and this was all she was good for, she better just accept it. It was clear to her that their relationship would never be the same.
This continued for a few months. She tried to stay high just to cope but that made keeping her grades up extremely difficult, it was only a matter of time before her dad discovered she was failing out. As Christmas vacation rolled around Cameron allowed Lauren to return home but not without her understanding there would be consequences if she told anyone anything or if she didn’t come back. Lauren returned home as if nothing was wrong. The guilt and shame were destroying her inside, but she did her best to put on a happy face and act normal.
James had missed his daughter more than anything and he was elated to have her home for a few weeks. He could tell she was different but couldn’t quite put his finger on what it was exactly. He chalked it up to the hard first semester away at school.
It seemed like just as soon as Lauren came home it was time for her to leave again. She told her dad that she had to return early to start studying for her upcoming classes, when in reality Cameron had demanded that she get back to work. James noticed she seemed extra sad as she left.
On New Year’s Eve it was a particularly busy night for Lauren, she was exhausted as she walked into the hotel room of her last date of the night. He was a regular, one that had always given her the creeps. She did her best to put on a smile and try and zone out until it was over. This was the last night Lauren was seen.
After hearing Lauren’s story, we want to know where you think the responsibility lies.
This is a story and dilemma we have been sharing across the country for years. As a community we can all agree that we need to do better. So, we ask for your help to protect future Lauren’s by Becoming a Guardian today!