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2015 (Narrative date)

Sex trafficking is a form of modern slavery that exists throughout the United States. Traffickers use violence, threats, lies, debt bondage and other forms of coercion to compel adults and children to engage in commercial sex acts against their will. The situations that sex trafficking victims face vary, many victims become romantically involved with someone who then forces them into prostitution. Others are lured with false promises of a job, and some are forced to sell sex by members of their own families. Victims of sex trafficking include both foreign nationals and US citizens, with women making up the majority of those trafficked for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation. In 2015, the most reported venues/industries for sex trafficking included commercial-front brothels, hotel/motel-based trafficking, online advertisements with unknown locations, residential brothels, and street-based sex trafficking. 

Theresa was 15 years old when the man she had a crush on drugged and raped her. Using photos of the encounter as blackmail, Theresa was then forced to provide sexual services to men for 2 years. Today Theresa travels the world telling her story. 

Many years ago I wrote a letter to Geraldo Rivera and Oprah asking for help. The Post Traumatic Stress Disorder I had developed had gotten very bad and I no longer knew how to heal from what had happened to me. But I never received a response. You see, I didn’t know what to call what I had experienced. Even though I had come from a good family and lived in the suburbs, I had been a vulnerable youth. 

At 15 years old, I was targeted by a group of men, developed a crush on one of them, and was groomed for their purposes. 

This man then drugged and raped me, and then blackmailed me with photos of the incident. For two years, I was made to service men. Not one man ever asked how old I was or why I was there. Even the families who lived upstairs while this went on never came down to find out why a girl was screaming. 

I never considered myself a prostitute. I was missing and no one knew it. 

Years later, a detective from Oakland, California, an expert in human trafficking, told me that this is still a common way that pimps (traffickers) catch their prey. 

If a man has sex with a 14-year-old, it is child molestation or rape and he has to register as a child predator. But if that same man has sex with a 14-year-old and gives her money for it, she is a child prostitute and can be prosecuted and jailed, while the man involved gets away with it relatively easily. 

I travel the world sharing my story and repeatedly hear, from women of all ages, “my story is just like yours.” 

I realized there are a lot of “Theresas” out there so I created S.O.A.P. (Save Our Adolescents from Prostitution) to rescue missing children being trafficked. We gather volunteers to put labels with the National Human Trafficking Hotline number on bars of soap and then distribute them free of charge to motels. We also give these establishments missing children posters and ask if they recognize any of the children. These tips have led to many rescues. Phone calls to the hotline double when we are doing our outreach campaigns. 

Human trafficking is an epidemic in every country, state and community. Through awareness and education of modern day slavery, we truly can improve the lives of women and girls everywhere. 

Narrative courtesy of Live Your Dream