PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – It’s a one hundred fifty billion dollar a year industry and every day many young women get involved. Not because they want to, but because they are lured in as a way to make cash.
January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month.
Human trafficking is a form of modern day slavery with more than twenty million victims worldwide.
Not all of these young women come from broken homes or have a troubled past.
“I had a wonderful childhood. I grew up in a very stable two parent home. A Christian, normal, happy, conservative household.”
This victim asked us to hide her identity. But, she did want to tell her story. We’ll call her Amy.
Her downward spiral began in college when Amy became a single mom. Bartending wasn’t paying the bills so she answered an ad to be a dancer.
“Something that wasn’t in my mindset, not something I wanted to do but I was looking for a potential financial solution.”
She was hired on the spot and the cash was more than she could have imagined. On the second night, she met a man promising even more money.
“So he paid for my time in V.I.P. to kind of isolate me a little bit to get me alone and pay me money.”
He eventually sweet talked Amy into going across the street to his business where she spent the next twelve hours.
“Pretty severe beatings by him so that I would be completely broken down as a human being.”
Once released, he threatened to kill her daughter if she didn’t comply. She was then forced into sexual labor for the next year.
Eventually, she built up the strength to look for help from a victim advocate who connected her with the Pinellas County detective. That’s how she got out.
“I said I guess I was just a prostitute. He said you were never a prostitute, you were sexually exploited.”
Amy broke away from her trafficker several years ago, went back to college and now has her degree.
She’s also working with other victims in Tampa Bay to help them escape.
If you’re a victim of human trafficking or know someone who is, help is available 24/7 through the local organization Bridging Freedom.