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. Young people who run away from home are particularly vulnerable to sexual exploitation by traffickers: the Department of Justice estimates that 293,000 youth are at risk. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) estimates that “1 in 5 of the 11,800 runways reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children in 2015 were likely sex trafficking victims.
April ran away from home at 15 years old and became involved with a primp named 'Tom' who held her hostage, threatening her with physical violence if she tried to escape. 'Tom' forced April to have sex with men where she was subjected to verbal abuse and sexual violence daily. April was finally rescued by the FBI.
I was 15 at the time and was a runaway. ‘Tom’ wanted to be a pimp, so I would be in his room in his apartment and he would not let me go out for anything. He tried to intimidate me by threatening to beat me up if I tried to leave. I was scared of him so I wouldn’t leave. He would drop me off at a hotel while he went to work.
It lasted from March until June or July. Sometimes it would be every day, sometimes he would say, ‘not today, but tomorrow.’ Out of the week, maybe 4-5 times a week, I was with different men.
I just felt like that it was my fault and I deserved it and nobody would ever believe me or try to help me, so I just let them control how I thought about myself. They were always verbally abusive and putting you down and it got to the point that I actually started believing it. Just letting someone control your own freedom take over just what you do. I couldn’t leave the room. It was like ‘wow, I’m letting someone make me feel so scared.’
I never called the police because I felt it was my fault. I felt at the time like I had to stay. One day the FBI ended up coming to my house and contacted me because my name came up in their investigation.
You have to know your self-worth. It’s OK to ask for help. They don’t know they are a victim. They feel like it’s their fault. We are victims. You can have the worst past, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a successful future.
Courtesy of US Immigrations and Custom Enforcement