There are an estimated 403,000 people living in modern slavery in the United States (GSI 2018). Sex trafficking exists throughout the country. 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.
Kat Rosenblatt grew up in an abusive home in South Florida. After her mother left her father and too Kat to a hotel, Kat was befriended by a young girl who over the course of a month groomed her into sex tourism. The first time Kat Rosenblatt’s traffickers attempted to sell her to an older man, she resisted and was left for dead in the street. Though she was able to escape this situation, Kat was trafficked again by a friend’s father who later planted drugs in her school bag. Kat was suspended and became a drug addict. However, after overcoming her addictions, Kat obtained a PhD, wrote a book about her experience and founded her organisation There Is Hope For Me.
First of all, I want to say thank you Sarah and thank you for all of your esteemed panellists. I am emotionally affected by what Callahan shared, I was not expecting that he was going to share about his brother. I did not know that and I just want to start off by saying, I grew up in that time in Miami when Adam Walsh went missing and I want you to know even though you couldn't save your brother, his story helped save me. It helped me to have the fire to fight when I did get kidnapped because I remember I did not want that to be my end. And this is genuinely happening in my heart right now just a heartfelt thank you for continuing the fight because there are children who need to hear this message and they cannot fight for themselves and that's why we're here today. And I applaud you Sarah, for creating this first of its kind global initiative with a global reporting know the signs.
My story happened here in South Florida and I wrote a book entitled Stolen. Where I grew up in an abusive home, an abusive background. My mom left my father to find some peace at a hotel in Miami Beach. And at that hotel there was a sex tourism ring that was functioning, even back then in South Florida, and all over the world. Where sex tourists would come here to purchase children. And so, they preyed upon me, not through an older man it was through a young girl like I was. She be friended me at the pool, she gained my trust. And her name was Mary and she was everything I thought I wanted to be. And over the course of a month she got me to buy into the lies that she told me, that she cared about me, that she loved me and that there was a man who wanted to be a father to me. She introduced me to her pimp who told me I could call him daddy. And for me, it was the daddy hold that lured me in. Because I just wanted to feel a sense of belonging, a sense of love, a sense of family, coming from a broken home.
And so the day would come when they would capitalise on that trust and she took me to meet the first sex buyer, who was a 65 year old man, in a hotel room and she told me to dress up like a bride and we were going to play a game. And I put a white dress on, the only thing I had, and we went into the room and I heard Mary lock the door. And that began the recruitment and the lure, where it she introduced me to this man who is half dressed and ready to purchase his American Virgin girl. She said how much will you pay for her you said 500 and Mary said no she's a Virgin I want 550. And that sadly was the going price for an American Virgin girl back then.
Today kids had to mate their prices 20, or in the public schools $5. And doing outreach to public schools I’ve found that 1 in three middle schoolers are at risk of recruitment and 1 in 9 high schoolers are being recruited. It is rampant, here in the US and abroad. I'm very thankful that first trafficking situation I escaped, because I wouldn't take the drugs, as this man started telling me all the things I wish my father would have told me. How pretty I was, how special I was, a Princess. I bought those lies. But I couldn't get past what Callahan and Christian had said, that gut instinct that something just wasn't right. and I always tell children trust your gut, it's never wrong. And as Mary began to agree on the price of $550 they were trying to get me to stay through taking marijuana and I said no because back then it was say no to drugs campaign, and I stood up and I began the fight against trafficking there, 13 years old in a hotel.
And so, I applaud you for doing this outreach to the tourism industry because it's still happening even today. And so, as the sex buyer got frustrated because he saw my boldness and they couldn't get me to take the drugs, he kicked us out and I was later kidnapped and drugged and left for dead on the side of the road. But again, I remembered, I'm sorry Callahan, I remembered your brother's story and I fought and I remember that God was fighting for me. And somehow, I survived, and I staggered to a payphone. And I just did not want to die at 13, and I made it to the phone and the doctor told my mom you know they found me there on the side of the road and they told my mom that the drug they gave me was supposed to kill me, but I lived. I survived to see another day.
Unfortunately, the damage from a broken home would follow me into my middle school and I would be recruited again. My friend’s dad was a trafficker here in South Florida, using his daughter to recruit kids for a sleepover and, without giving away the entire story, you know I have the book, Stolen, which goes to support survivors. I will tell you this that it's important for parents to know who their children are spending time with and sleeping over. Who the houses are, who the parents are. And I remember my mom never called the phone number and her father sold us. Her father sold us for $40 each, gave us cocaine which was a drug of choice at that time, took us to a brothel. And I remember experiencing drug addiction. I lost my virginity to rape at 14 and I escaped because I felt that need to fight for myself. I felt that there was a bigger plan for my life and because I had seen examples, again like Adam, I didn't want that to happen. And I knew these people were dangerous and they threatened to call my family. They threatened to kill my family, they threatened my friends in school, they threatened to do horrible things to us if I ever told.
And so, they found me, when I escaped they found me. Nobody would help me, strangers walking by thought I was a juvenile delinquent and so I was lost and back then when you went missing you […] had your face on a milk carton. And that was the extent of it, but thankfully I was brought back to my friend's house where her father and these other men believed me and told me if I ever told anyone what would happen to me and my family. So, I never said a word and I promised that I wouldn't, and I thought I got away but I didn't. And the next day when I went back to school they were there and planted drugs in my purse to send a message what would happen if I ever told on them. And I got suspended from school and became a drop out and a drug addict. And, even though I made wrong choices and wound up going into gangs and doing things that I wish I never would have done, I eventually broke free of all of those addictions. By the grace of God, I got my GED, and I went on to get my PhD and founded a non-profit called There Is Hope For Me and wrote a book entitled Stolen. So now I can go back into the schools and warn children and tell them if there was hope for me there's hope for you.
A campaign like this is vital. I mean this is the first of its kind giving a global outreach and reporting mechanism where all of the law enforcement agencies can work together, where the public can work together. Working in this field now for over 10 years, I can tell you Sarah, that it is a challenge to get people to collaborate, become aware. But the majority of tips come from people like your viewers, from the general public, and if you see something you need to say something because you could be the one who makes a difference. I've worked in training law enforcement and educators and helping them to know the signs and work in investigations and I see how valuable these tips are from the public. So, awareness campaigns like this are vital. Liam Neeson’s film is vital. Because he is the face of trafficking, anti trafficking now. And so I want to applaud you for doing that. But I also want to say that as survivors, as Sam said, and I wanna applaud all of our panellists for their wonderful part, and especially you Sarah. But all of us who have survived trafficking is our story doesn't end there, it's just the beginning of healing. And I do want to mention a special thanks to Teresa and Dwayne Bowe who is a former Saints player, they have become like family to me and mentors. And I feel like even at my age we still need to feel like we belong somewhere. And we're all in this together, my story as you heard, is all of our storey. And thank you Callahan for sharing, thank you for what your family's gone through and we tried to get your dad to write a forward on my book but maybe the next one we can collaborate on.
Narrative as told during a live panel for It’s a Penalty
The full panel and original narrative can be viewed here