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Survivor of sex trafficking tells her story


It doesn't just happen in the movies, and it happens right here in North Carolina. Young girls are being tricked, coerced and even forced into sex work.

"Jane" is just one of those women who says she was raped "hundreds of times." She says she was 17 years old when she began seeing a man more than twice her age. 

She says it began when he tricked her into posing for pornographic pictures.

"He's like, 'You're beautiful, you could be a model," Jane recalled. "So he got a Polaroid camera and he began taking pictures of me. They started out pretty innocent, and then they became more and more sexual."

She says it didn't stop at just pictures. "I remember there were a lot of voices in the background. I was asleep in the bedroom, and I woke up and my underwear was gone and there were a lot of voices and there was evidence of me being gang-raped."

Jane says she was even left chained and handcuffed to the bed once. But none of these were a red flag to her at the time.

"This is what I thought a relationship looked like," Jane said. "I grew up with abusive relationships in my family and being abused sexually, physically. So I just didn't know any better."

Jennifer Fisher with the North Carolina Justice Academy teaches law enforcement officers how to identify potential victims of sex trafficking. She says the definition of human trafficking is that "someone is being exploited through force, fraud or coercion, and that may be through labor or forced sex."

"A lot of victims of trafficking, including sex trafficking, do not identify themselves as being a victim," Fisher explained. "Some may feel that they got themselves in this situation and it's their responsibility to get out."

It wasn't until years later that Jane realized she was a victim of sex trafficking.

"I found out he had mass-produced everything," Jane said. "He had been selling pictures of me -- he had 8x10s, 4x6s, colored, black and white, thousands of them."

Jane said, "It turned out it was on the calendar [that] he had been keeping track and he said we had made love. But it turned out it was how many times I was being raped and it was a business."

According to the N.C. Justice Academy, the three most profitable criminal enterprises in the country are the trafficking of drugs, guns and people. "A drug can only be used one time and it is no longer available to be sold, whereas a human can be sold over and over and over again," Fisher pointed out.

Because of trainings like those offered by the N.C. Justice Academy, law enforcement is able to find and prosecute more criminals in sex trafficking cases. Fayetteville detective John Benazzi, a graduate of the program, says it has helped give him insight into the minds of both the victims and the perpetrators.

"Victims are scared to come forward. They're not sure how to report," Benazzi said. "There's a lot of brainwashing, a lot of grooming, especially when you deal with younger females and younger males. They're looking for that figure, that mentor and then they end up getting pushed into something they really don't know how to step back from."

That scenario was very familiar to Jane.

"He did a lot of manipulation and control, and I thought he loved me," Jane recalled. "He also never let me go anywhere without him, and I thought, from what he said, 'I don't want to be anywhere without you, so I want you with me all the time.'

"Of course, wanting to be loved was exciting because he wants me, he needs me."

Thanks to her own awareness and a friend she eventually confided in, Jane found the strength to leave. She says she's thankful that friend was so honest with her, and that he was paying attention. 

"I told him what happened and he's like, 'That's not normal."

She warned, "Learn to be aware. You don't have to be paranoid, but be vigilant. This is real and people need to do something about it.

"It blows my mind because if it was their child then they'd want to do something about it."

Jane now speaks out about her abuse, empowering other young people to break the cycle of abuse in their lives

"Know your worth, know your value and know that you deserve the best," she said. 

"If you do practice a certain faith, let God into your heart to do that healing and restoration because you can walk out of your life in freedom."

To report any suspicious activity you've seen or to find out ways you can help, you can call the hotline for sexual abuse and sex crimes at (888) 373-7888.


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