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Sex trafficking victim shares story with ABC2

Posted at 11:29 PM, Dec 14, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-14 23:31:27-05

There's been close to 4,500 human trafficking cases reported this year alone.  Those are just the cases that have been reported.  Experts say that number is just a small fraction of how many lives are touched by this growing epidemic.

ABC2 spoke to a victim who found her way out.  Her name is omitted from this article to protect her identity. 

The young victim we spoke to was a teenage runaway who found herself in the relentless clutches of human trafficking.

"I ran away when I was 17 and I bumped into this guy who I thought was someone who loved me," she said.

And that's how it started.  

"He wanted to sell my body and profit off the money. Me being young, I really didn't realize what this was."

Until the day, she tried to speak up. 

"I did what he asked me to do, if I didn't, he would beat me."

Homeless and alone she felt this was her fate.

"I went through the beatings, I went through selling my body, it was just something I had to do."

Rachel Sye is in Turn Around, an organization devoted to turning victims into survivors.

"When you talk about intimate relationships, the trafficking victim, they typically are lured in by the trafficker or the pimp and promised a relationship."

"There's something called trauma bonding that plays into it in terms of making a victim go back to the trafficker or into the trafficking scenario," Sye continued.

While most 17-year-olds are thinking of graduation and their senior prom our victim was worried about how to slip her pimp.  

"In a day when I was trafficking, I probably had like 50 people.  When I was 17 he made me have sex with 5 different people."

"If I didn't do anything that he wanted me to do say if I didn't want to have sex with this man, he would really beat me in front of that man or pistol whip me."

"There's a lot of trauma that's involved with being a trafficking victim in terms of things that they've seen that they've been made to do," Sye said.

This victim was lucky, she escaped a couple of years ago and found it hard to get away from the only life she knew.

"I was 17 and still being trafficked but when I turned 19 I was doing it by myself because I thought I couldn't do anything else."

She said the most important step of her life was finding Turn Around.

"While I was coming here, I was still selling my body but this was a safe haven for me."

After she managed to slip several pimps and predators and escaping the life, as it’s referred to, was just as hard.

"At this time I didn't have any pimp as they would call it. It was just me I would go outside if someone beeped the horn I'll get in the car and do something for money."

This isn't a strange phenomenon.  

Many trafficking victims think they can’t leave the life because they've been made to feel they can't do anything else. 

"It's not a life that I chose but after it was something I was doing on my own that I thought I couldn't get out of, I thought that was the only way to make money."

Sadly, that’s the chance thousands take.  This victim has since traded the seedy underworld of prostitution and trafficking for art, the healing process continues.

"Some days I still get depressed and just get worked up about it because it still cuts into my daily activities. Now I'm working and I'm doing positive things:  I have a home, something I can call my own."

She lives with anxiety and depression because of her past but says the art-filled walls and comforts of Turn Around may just have saved her life. Now, returning to normalcy is the challenge.

"I want to get married one day how am I supposed to tell my husband this is something I used to do?  No man is really going to understand that. You come back but you're never fully there.  I'm not fully myself but if I help somebody else I feel better."

She's now thriving and hopes other victims will find a place like Turn Around.

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