Jose Alfaro and Shannon Sigamoni
DescriptionJose Alfaro (30) talks with his colleague Shannon Sigamoni (28) about coming out to his family, getting kicked out of his home, and searching for acceptance. He discusses how he found resilience in himself while he was forced into sex labor, and talks about the importance of sharing his story to help other survivors and members of the LGBTQ+ community.
Subject Log / Time Code
- Jose Alfaro
- Shannon Sigamoni
Recording LocationVirtual Recording
Partnership TypeFee for Service
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00:03 Hi, my name is Shannon. Sigamoni. I am 28 years old. Today's date is Thursday, June 10th, 2021. I'm located in Washington DC today. My recording partner is Jose Jose Alfaro and he is my colleague.
00:18 Hi everyone. My name is Jose Alfaro. I am 30 years old. Today's date is Thursday, June 10th, 2021 and I am recording with Shannon and Shannon is my call.
00:31 Great. So thanks so much for agreeing to sit down with me. Jose. You know, I do know what this is an initiative with the office on trafficking in persons. We are working on an issue that's called the voices of Freedom. The voices of Survivor leaders, like yourself are so important to have at the table. So I just first and foremost, just really want to thank you to give listeners a little context of why we're meeting today. In recognition of the 20-year anniversary of the trafficking victims protection act of 2040. VPI. The initiative will Chronicle. The impacts of this piece of legislation by preserving the stories of survivors service providers and other professionals and just really get your perspective on the anti-trafficking field and give you a chance to share your story. So again, thank you so much for being here today.
01:25 Yes, thank you so much for having me. I'm excited.
01:31 Background. All kind of just start. I am a program attractive.
01:36 Blessed with the office on trafficking in persons. I have a background in social work. So I've experienced if you know, working directly with trafficking survivors as well as Community violence welfare system, a little bit of everything and so I just kind of wanted to get to know you Jose and I'll get to know your background and kind of as we begin our conversation. I wanted to know if there's anything you want to know about you as you kind of, share your story and answer his questions.
02:06 Yes, absolutely. I think the number one thing that I would like for people to know about me as we get started as that I'm human. And I never in a million years thought that something like this would happen to me. But also I am in a place in my life where I finally feel like I'm getting to be the person that I was before, it'll happen to me. And so now that I'm able to analyze everything I've realized that this is an ongoing issue in the world, but especially within the lgbtq community. And if I can be a voice for those that are uninsured or can't even identify them. That's what I'm going to do.
03:00 That's amazing. Thank you so much for sharing that and you know that. Kind of like read me and nicely to my next question, which is really like how do you think your life experiences and what you went through contributed to your advocacy work today for the lgbtq community?
03:21 I think that how
03:25 It has contributed to the work that I do today. My entire story has everything to do with why I seek out. I feel it. There's so much stigma around males.
03:41 Coming forward and sharing about sexual abuse or sexual exploitation. And so because I found it so hard for myself to identify and for myself to come forward and share. But also, when I did share in the negative comments, in the things people would say to me, I felt it was even more of a reason for me to speak out and share more. So again more people can identify and feel comfortable coming forward it if they do so because of that that's kind of where I decided that I need to share my story on as many popcorn with possible so that I can be heard but also I can be heard by other survivors, our victim.
04:32 Know that. And that really takes a lot of Courage, especially, like you said, when people were giving you so much backlash for sharing your story, and I know how much quarters that takes. So, thank you for really being that voice for other survivors. Are you comfortable sharing a just a little bit about your story? Absolutely. So my Story begins in 2006. When my parents kicked me out of my home because of my sexuality. I grew up in a very conservative town, where being gay was considered an Abomination. I was silenced at a very young age, you know, I was terrified, I couldn't come forward. I couldn't share with anyone. What I was going through or what? I was feeling because I was afraid of going to hell, or or feeling like everyone was going to shun me, which eventually did happen at this time in my life. I was an honor, roll student. I was participating.
05:32 Almost every club that I could I play mini Sport and I would prepared for a college career and when my parents went through my phone and realized that I was gay and asked me how they were going to fix me and at this point in my life, I
05:51 Felt like I needed to be fixed. Like I wanted to be fixed, and I was willing to do anything and everything that I could. But at the same time. I didn't know what to do, but for them to ask, my answer was completely. Just move me somewhere near where I can start all over and they did. And when they move me somewhere near you.
06:13 I ended up meeting a 36 year old man who began actually abusing me and sex became normal. And I felt as though I owe this man, you know, anything that he wanted in Return of him, supporting me and helping me. And when I went back, home. Summer, my father, gave me an ultimatum and he said, either you are going to conversion therapy camp, and you're going to church and you're going to go to therapy and you're going to get fixed or you can get out of my house. And I don't believe that my father thought that I had anywhere else to go. And so I think he thought this was going to be my only option because I was talking to this older, man. I decided I was going to go with him and I did and I moved in with him and
07:13 Again, he began sexually, abusing me several times a day every day for several months, and then I realized that he was sleeping with other teenagers, and it was one thing for it to be happening to me, but it was another to see and hear that it was happening to other teenagers. And so I left and went back home and that is when my father kicked me out after a week of being home. I went to a friend's place. I went online and I came in contact with a man named Jason, Dandy.
07:49 And Jason candy was.
07:56 And pathetic. He asked me how my day was going. I was completely honest with him. I was looking for support. I was looking for help. I was looking for advice and he seem to paint a picture of the most incredible.
08:13 Life that was waiting for me. And he told me he had a 9 bedroom home in Austin, Texas. He told me that he sold, a pressure washer business at the age of 15 you made Millions off of that. And he's saying these things to me. And all I can think is wow, like this is this is what I need. I need someone to help me and he has it all and he told me that he had friends who went through similar situations and that he wanted to help me out and
08:47 That was I became the perfect victim for him in that moment. And I do believe that he was online searching for a person of color. Someone who looked extremely young knowing that this young person would listen and do anything that he opted and it was just perfect timing. And so, after a couple of hours of talking with him, I contemplated. I went back and forth. Should I go should I not? And eventually I realized I have nowhere else to go. I have
09:24 No one to.
09:26 To come to and ask for advice though. I'm just going to do it and I did. And the first week things were normal. I guess. I mean, we went to the restaurant now, then he began controlling me changing my diet changing. How many times a day? I went to the gym?
09:47 And from there, he then introduced the idea of me working for him. And he mentioned that he had a massage business that he ran on the side for extra money. And he said, one day, you're going to want to live a life on your own and you're going to want to support yourself and at the age of 16, this is all I ever wanted. I wanted to be
10:11 An adult, I wanted to be able to support myself, but I also wanted to live the life that I felt comfortable living. I wanted to be myself without anyone stopping me or telling me that I was wrong and this is exactly what I wanted to hear. And he knew that. And so he said,
10:31 I want to include you in my massage business, but there's one problem. You're not 18 years old and he said, if anyone asks, you have to lie, and he says, if they find out that you're under the age of 18, you're going to get into a lot of trouble. So, immediately, I am now, filing. I cannot go to anyone and share any of the things that are about to occur. And if I do, then I'm running the risk of getting in trouble, going to jail or people judging me. And so
11:12 I told him that there was one other issue that I didn't know how to give a massage. And he said, that's the easy part. And I said, cool. How do we get started? And he began taking shirtless photos of me, posting them online and he showed me how to make Craigslist ads and how to respond to the emails and how to make sure that law enforcement wasn't the people that we were talking to and then it came to our first massage and the door was locked closed. I'm in a room with two adult men who are completely naked. And I realized in that moment. This is not a massage that the going to be sexual. And again, I'm not changed. I'm not tied down.
12:05 I'm simply mentally manipulated and I now know, there's no way out of this. And if I choose to say no, or if I walk out of the door one, where am I going to go to?
12:24 Man going to stop me with fear that. I'm going to tell law enforcement or tell someone else what he did or three is Jason going to dock me. And then Army and feel as though he can no longer trust me. And so I'm trapped and there was no way out and as time went on the massage has began to get more and more aggressive. They went from fondling to orals back to full on rape and after a while, I couldn't take it anymore. And it was something that I never in a million years thought that I would be doing. Like I said, I had dreams, I had to go through things that I wanted to do and never did. I think that I would be doing sex work.
13:16 And so, I ended up contacting the 36-year old and I felt that that was going to be a better option for me. And I planned my. And I think the biggest question that I get the most is,
13:33 Why didn't you just leave?
13:36 Or why didn't you leave sooner? And I think the best answer I can give is that I had nowhere else to go. I didn't know who to turn to who to talk to. I didn't know that there were resources out there that could help me. And to be quite honest with you at that time in 2006 or 2007. I don't even know if they were requested out there for me. And so basically I was just lost and I can get a guidance and there was nowhere out there. There was no one out there to help guide me.
14:15 The majority of my story. I think after that it just becomes survival. You know, how do I move forward with my life? How what is happening to me? I became so lost. So confused and I felt so misunderstood, you know, I began drinking and partying and taking drugs and finding ways to numb myself without even realizing that what I was doing, was numbing myself and I became toxic, you know, people around me with they don't hang out with him. He's crazy. He's wild. He he acts out constantly. My family would say his disobedient. He doesn't listen. He's, he's not a good kid.
15:05 And you hear these things, but you don't understand why you've become this person without someone telling you like what you experienced is, traumatizing and it's going to affect you for the rest of your life. And you need help. You need therapy. You need, you need to take care of yourself and instead. I was causing more harm. I was Burning Bridges. I was taking drugs. I was drinking constantly. I didn't care about life. I didn't care about my future. All I cared about was surviving and partying and that's what I did. And so it led me to a life of sex work, where sex work gave me.
15:53 The option to continue the partying but also provide for myself and cuz I couldn't hold a job. I didn't wake up on time. I missed my alarm several times. I had to drop out of college.
16:07 And so, they gave me.
16:12 It allowed me to have the lifestyle that I wanted and that I needed at that time. And the sex work ended up leading me to webcam to then being on mine and getting into the sugar, daddy sugar baby relationship, which then led me to a Man, flying me to Boston, Massachusetts where I currently love and things just weren't working out between us and he said, you're a great guy. I'd like to offer you a place to stay rent-free with food on the table under one condition. And I said, here we go. What is it that you want me to do for you? And he said, you got to go back to school which at that time someone would say that's a blessing in disguise, but I was like, no. That's the last thing that I want to do. This is an easy life. I have luxury clothes. I have all the money that I could ask for. I don't want to go back to school and he said well,
17:12 You can go back to Texas and I'm like, well, that's not happening. So I enrolled into beauty school and then I got my first real job in a real paycheck. And it's a real paycheck, but the paycheck was like $500, but from me at that time, it was everything and I started to feel again like
17:33 I was.
17:35 Young driving, you know, hungry young man again, and I fed off of that. And I'm so happy that I did because I started to slowly realize that I needed to get my shit together. And and I did, I did. I started to get my my, my life together for sure.
18:04 That that is absolutely amazing Jose, you know, and thank you so much for sharing that with us. There are certain parts of your story that I just kind of want to highlight. I mean thank you for sharing that, you know, you were not changed out. I think that is particularly important cuz I seen a lot of people who do not understand how exploitation Works. They don't understand how the psychological control and that manipulation and kind of feeding off of the vulnerabilities that you had. At that time, can definitely be more powerful and more controlling than actual physical control. And so I think it's so important that people are able to share your perspective. I also know, you don't think it's so important that despite everything that you went through, you were able to, you know, go back to school. And, you know, you are feeling more like yourself now that you mentioned and it just kind of leave me into my next question because you were obviously very resilient. So just kind of how
19:04 Define resiliency in a white, what has been the sources of resilience in your life. I hear going back to school with one of them, but would you mind sharing a little bit more about that?
19:15 Absolutely, and it's for me that question is.
19:20 Very bad, but if I could describe resiliency, it would be to keep going, no matter what, no matter what, obstacles come your way, just to be able to keep going. And to be honest with you. There were a lot of factors that kept me going and it was one growing up.
19:42 And rarely do, I actually talked about the positive with my my parents, but my parents instilled in me, great work, ethic to always work hard and I always want to do better. And with that I carry that with me and I think that's something that always kept me going. You know, when Jason did what he did to me in the 36-year old is sexually abusing me. You think that there's nowhere else to go but I continued High School. I got my diploma, I graduated but there was always something in me that that you got to set yourself up for success in the future. And there were many ways that I did that even though some of them were not.
20:27 Maybe the right way. But I mean I even see the sex work as something that felt set myself up for my own future because I really could have just fallen into drugs and given up and said I'm not going to do anything and then been homeless then and not care. But there was a part of me that always cared and always wanted to keep going. And even those tax work might be frowned upon to some people from me. It helped me to continue to live to survive and to keep going. And so for me, resiliency just needs to keep fighting and to keep going, no matter what.
21:08 And you certainly did that and it sounds like you continue to do that even just by sharing your story. You know, I think that is educating so many people and you know, I'm sure there are people that are going to listen to your story or that have listened to your story that can now identify as a Survivor and ask them. When they look at you for inspiration, you know, you mentioned being a kind of an advocate for the lgbtq community and survivors who identify as male. Can you tell me a little bit about the work that you have done or what you want to do for that community?
21:47 Answer the work that I've done, it is mostly just sharing my story. Like I am today, to be honest with you. I think, like I said, it's so important that we hear all survivor voices, people of color lgbtq. I am dying to hear a story of a trans Survivor, but I think the, the work that I have been doing and sharing my story. I've had so many people reach out to me and tell me that either they can relate, or they've been through a similar experience, or they didn't realize that males were Tropic. I mean, the list goes on on things that people have shared with me or said, to me or told me. And I think that one thing has really affected the work that I do.
22:41 Is I was giving a
22:45 A speech. I was just sharing my story with the US attorney's office, and I was in contact with so many law enforcement officers that were there that day, FBI Homeland Security, social worker, and I'm sharing my story and I explained everything that I went through. And this woman, came up to me afterward and she said, who died? I'm a mother of three young men and she said, I also grew up in a very small town, very close to yours and she shared the name of that and I was like, oh, I know where that is. I want you to know first and foremost that I am a Christian woman.
23:28 And I kind of took a step back and I was like, okay, like what is your religion or anything have to do with any of this, but she continued it in.
23:41 Began with me to your story and I immediately would kind of turned off by it. And she said in the, I'm not going to lie to you. I didn't want to hear it. I didn't want to listen to it. And she said and then you continue to share your story and I started thinking about the three young men that I raised.
24:01 And she said never in a million years that I would I ever wish that for one of my children and she said and I now consider you that you have changed my perspective and I realize that you are human and you just that you are worthy of love. You are worthy of support and I'm sorry that I was so turned off at the beginning. She said, but the work that you're doing Has Changed My Views and thank you so much for being here. And at the time, I didn't really take that as a positive. I was just kind of still stuck on the fact that she came up to me, admitting that she's a Christian woman almost as if, like she was again.
24:49 Shannon, me and doing exactly what my parents did. But now that I think about that, it is the one thing that has stuck with me for what, like 5 years now. And I think back to her and that is the reason why I do what I do today, you know, it's not just or survivors to identify, but it's also preparing for other people to realize that every human is deserving of love and support and this type of human trafficking, should not happen to anyone. It doesn't matter your base. It doesn't matter. Your gender. It doesn't matter. Your sexual orientation.
25:31 What matters is that? You're human? And like I said, you are deserving of life and love and support and have the opportunity to become anything and everything that you want to do in life, but
25:48 Yeah, I hope that answers your question and I think Jose it's so clear that just let you know, not even dressed but but by sharing your stories and it's made such an impact. On like you said, all different types of people and I think it is clear that it's having a ripple effect. Because now that you have educated her, who knows, who she then went to touch of Kate Wright her, her family, her friend, her church members. So, I think that is absolutely amazing and you're doing fantastic work, you know, it kind of makes my next question for to have, you know, based on your experience, based on telling your story, the people that use Matt. Do you have any advice for people who are wishing to make a difference for human trafficking survivors?
26:38 Absolutely, and there's a number of things that I would like to save for those who want to Advocate or work in the field against human trafficking. My suggestion is one. If you are a Survivor, I hope that you are getting
26:57 Therapy, you're getting the help that you need so that you are prepared for what's to come? Because when you share, it's going to open up a lot of old memories and a lot of things that you and you have no clue. What Dark World you may enter. And I can say for myself when I first shared and especially with the US attorney's office, the first time I shared the next morning. At night, I partied. So hard and I blacked out and I woke up the next morning and I contemplated suicide, you know, and here I am almost over a decade.
27:36 Out of what happened to me? I'm I also testified in the trial against Jason. The guy who trafficked me and you think that all Jose, you've gotten, you know, the validation that you need to move on with your life. But here I am in my hotel room, ready to commit suicide. And that was a moment where I realized hold up. Maybe I know things down and maybe I need to get a little more help and have a little more healing before I continue to share, but I will say there is a positive. Once I began to share more and more. I began writing my book. I begin, you know, talking with friends and family and and getting all of the positive messages. I slowly started to realize how much easier it would be coming for me. The Michael Jackson is just to make sure that you are prepared and that you're ready to show your story and then for those who are not survivors.
28:36 And are just looking to help. I suggest you look into organizations that are Survivor LED. I think it's so important. But also, when we are sharing about survivors, we share about all survive and I think, one thing that I hear the most is About Women and Children, it would be nice to include men in male, in the dialogue, when were talking about that, so that we can help break in warm milk can identify and come forward and share and feel comfortable.
29:06 No, absolutely not. You know, I really appreciate your honesty about the effects. That survivors continue to face a long after their experience. It's so important. And I and I agree. We really do need a break break that stigma. Would you like to talk a little bit about your book? I love to hear a little bit more about it.
29:28 Absolutely. So I've been riding for I want to say is going on for years now. I actually it was right after the trial that I made the decision to begin writing and
29:45 I started from the beginning, I started with my childhood and I began analyzing every part of my life because I asked myself. How did I end up here today? How did I go from having?
30:00 So much Drive.
30:02 And wanting to become so successful in life to then becoming or doing sex work and being at my lowest low and then going through anxiety PTSD, having a two-week anxiety attack or panic attack where I then became bedridden for 2 weeks. How did I end up in this place? And why am I not that fun? Loving excited young man that I once was and I began writing for myself in writing so that I could analyze everything and have a better understanding and then one page turned into a hundred pages and then a hundred Pages turned into, you know, several chapters and then several chapters turned into an entire book. And right now I'm still going through the editing process, but eventually I do plan on
31:02 Publishing my book. I want to go the traditional route of the day. If that doesn't work out for me. Then I will help publish either way. I put a lot of work into it, a lot of heart, a lot of sweat and so it will get released from how one way or another.
31:20 That's great. Yeah, definitely, you know, keep me in the loop. I would love to once it's published love to buy a copy and and read it, you know, I can tell that you have put a lot of of work into it.
31:32 I definitely will and if I don't then I'm sure I'll be sharing it everywhere. Spread the word as well. Absolutely. We are kind of kind of, you know, I'm really interested in knowing how you would like to do. Remember whether that's the Legacy that you leave for your family or Community, your friends, the anti-trafficking world.
32:12 I think the way that I would like to be remembered is
32:18 As a fun-loving.
32:28 Person, but also,
32:35 I want to feel.
32:40 I want to feel like people understand that I am human in the things that I've done in the things that I've participated in and the years of my toxic Behavior. And the people that I know come in contact with
32:57 I hope that people can forgive me and they can look past that and they can see what I was struggling with. And in the future. If they come in contact with someone who's, you know, showing the exact type of behavior. I hope that they can remember me and say,
33:17 This person is a human being and they might have gone through something horrible and I should not judge them. But if anything I should probably support and help them with whatever it is, they're struggling with. So I think that kind of answer that question, but I think that's the one major thing that I hope people know about me is that I have done things that are horrible. And I've also had things that are horrible that have been done to me. But again, I'm human and I am worthy of love and it took me a long time to realize that but I'm finally here and I want to leave people with that that all human beings are deserving of thought. So,
34:10 No, absolutely. I'm, you know, I have known you for a very, very, very short time. And I can already tell that you are a fun-loving and driven person, and you really are making an impact on so many different lives. So I really can't thank you enough for sharing your story and being so open and making that impact on survivors everywhere, you know, it cuz it's really, really been an honor to have the opportunity to interview you and get to know you a little bit more. And so I just want to say thank you again. Thank you for allowing me to be on your warm. Thank you to storycorps for having me as well. I think the food, incredible work and like I said, The more we raise the voices of those that are being in her. The more people that were going to help him stay, though. I appreciate. I appreciate you for having me.
35:03 Absolutely, as we close. Is there anything else that you want to share with anyone?
35:08 Parents. Love your children. Love your children. Okay, great. Thanks. Again. Jose. It was great talking to you today.