Sixteen year old Georgie was working her part time job at the cell phone accessory kiosk at the mall. Time was moving slow but she was down to her last 15 minutes of her shift. She planned to meet her friend Beth at the theater to see the new chick flick. She was getting antsy to clock out and meet her friend. With just two minutes to go, a well-dressed couple came up to the kiosk. After a few seconds of looking at the merchandise, the man asked Georgie if she would think it’s rude if he complimented her on her looks. Georgie had never thought she was beautiful, just ordinary. The woman went on to explain that they owned a modeling agency and would love to take some photos of her. They told her she could easily make thousands of dollars modeling in her area. Georgie was excited. It was a much better opportunity than working at the kiosk at the mall. And just think of what she could buy with all of that money! The man said they were leaving to go back to their home tomorrow, so if she wanted to take them up on their offer to get into the modeling business, they would need to get the pictures today. Georgie didn’t hesitate, she clocked out and went with the couple.
Two weeks have passed since that day. Georgie never did get her modeling pictures taken. She was sold to the highest bidder. She was forced to endure unspeakable acts. When she wasn’t with her “owner”, her hands and feet were bound. Her “owner” repeatedly told her that if she tried to run or talk to anyone he would harm her family—forcing her to comply with his torture. Eventually, her “owner” would force her to go with other men, while he collected top dollar for her services. Georgie was so frightened that something would happen to her family, she was determined to put up with whatever happened to keep them safe.
The night Georgie was supposed to meet her friend Beth was her parent’s worst nightmare. After piecing together what had happened to Georgie that night after work, the Police were at a dead end. Not knowing where the couple had taken her, there were very few leads to work with. At this point there were several agencies involved. Georgie’s picture was circulated and people were encouraged to call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 888-3737-888, but there was no word for weeks.
Georgie’s “owner” decided to branch out. He liked the extra money coming in. He would send her to the local truck stop. There, she was to pick up five different men within the course of the night. She was repeatedly reminded that her family’s safety relied on her returning each night, with the money. Georgie thought often of making a run for it, but she was a long way from home and she feared for her family. One night Georgie approached a trucker as he was leaving the truck stop café. She asked him if he wanted company, just as her “owner” instructed her. He nodded and they walked to his semi. Once they were locked in the vehicle the man turned to her and asked if she was in trouble. Georgie had never had anyone ask her if this was something she didn’t want to do. She started to cry and within minutes the trucker had called the local authorities. Georgie was lucky, this trucker belonged to the Truckers against Trafficking, an award winning group that trains truckers to identify human trafficking victims.
Georgie was reunited with her parents. She was lucky. She will have to work through the emotional scars, but is alive to live out the rest of her life. Her “owner” was captured and faces charges, however the couple that initially abducted her remains at large.
Approximately 300,000 children are at risk of being sex trafficked in the U.S. Sex Trafficking is a $99 BILLION dollar industry and can affect any gender, ethnicity, age or economic level. Most children come from “normal” homes and go to school regularly, but are groomed to fear repercussion if they do not cooperate.
Learn what puts youth at risk for trafficking so you can help prevent it. Visit www.wisconsintalks.org or call 211.
The names have been changed in this story, but the events are real. It is just as easy for teens or adults to be swept into human/sex trafficking in a rural area as in a big city. All of us need to keep our eyes open for signs that could point to a current ring in our area. Realize that this could be your neighbor, niece or daughter. It is also not limited to just girls or women, men and boys can also be swept into this horrific web. It is up to us to do our part to help stop this unimaginable crime.
Submitted by: Joan Spencer, Development Director at Community Referral Agency
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