Exploitation: ALERT!

Teen and pre-teen girls have never been more at risk!

It is a tragic sign of our times. Parents must be aware– don’t think it cannot happen to your daughter! The average age of entry into the U.S. sex industry is 12 years of age, with children as young as 10 years of age.  In Portland, Oregon the FBI’s Operation Lost Innocence Campaign to rescue child victims of sex trafficking, recovered 7 victims in just 1 eight-hour period. Human trafficking is the world’s second largest, fastest growing criminal industry with annual profits averaging $32 billion in 2007 alone. Human slave traders made more money than Google, Nike, and Starbucks combined.  The average pimp in the U.S. can make $200,000 a year off the trafficking of a single girl.

‘From Clark County star student to stripper’

Her story contains a warning and a lesson for all parents about the hidden sex trafficking trade operating in the Northwest.

Brianna was convinced she had found a boyfriend and freedom.  But in less than a week she found herself in a strip club far from home.  Police say she was flirting with something much more dangerous.

Family photos tell the story of a girl who grew up supported by a loving family.  She excelled in school and sports.  But what happened in December 2009 left her and her parents shaken.  “Living in a small community I’ve never not felt safe,” Brianna told KGW, “and I don’t feel safe (now).”

It was early December when a twenty-something man from Seattle named Nick and his friend started frequenting the local cafe where Brianna worked part-time.  “They were really flirty and just really really nice,” recalled Brianna.

Just days after Brianna turned 18, Nick invited her up to check out Seattle where she wanted to go to college.  She borrowed her dad’s car, lied about where she was going, and headed north.  Once she got there she didn’t want to go home.  Nick bought her expensive things, offered her a spare room, and even money for college.  “It was kind of exhilarating, kind of like ‘I’m finally out on my own, but I have this really awesome guy who’s wanting to take care of me’,” said Brianna.

Nick helped her get a job.  By her second night in Seattle, Brianna had gone from star student to stripper. “I was there for about four hours and I made $350,” said Brianna.  Nick pocketed the money, along with her phone.  She was being cut off from her now frantic family, and tightly controlled.

From Seattle, Brianna called Evan, a trusted friend back home.  She had to return her dad’s car, and wanted to know if he would give her a ride back to Nick afterwards.  Evan became suspicious.  “As soon as she said he had two cell phones, I knew this guy was involved in something illegal.” He said.

Evan agreed to give her a ride.  Then he did something that might have saved her life.  He betrayed her trust.  When Brianna arrived to meet him, she found her mom and his parents, who had miraculously tracked down former Washington Congresswoman Linda Smith.  Smith founded Shared Hope International, an organization that rescues girls from the sex trade around the world.

Smith had no doubt that Brianna was being lured down a path that would end with violence and prostitution.  It was too familiar.  “I call it the ‘go to hell’ look – she really wanted all of us to go there,” recalled Smith, who proceeded to describe the recruitment process, ‘what they say, what they do, the things they would omit’ to a disbelieving Brianna.  “I found it annoying,” said Brianna.  “Then I realized that all the stories were the same as mine.”

Brianna stopped taking Nick’s calls, and now feels foolish for being so naïve.  But sex trafficking isn’t something most families warn their kids about.  “We need to educate our girls about what this is and how they get there,” Smith said.

Brianna’s family shared their story with KGW in the hope that public awareness could protect other girls, because police can’t do much.  In this case, officers said no crime was committed because Brianna was 18 and, although she was manipulated, she was not forced to do anything.  Brianna is still afraid to be alone but grateful to be the one that got away.  “I’m just happy that I’m here, that I’m alive, that I’m back.”

Parents:  Be vigilant!  In most states Criminal Justice Laws and Policies are so lax that there are many juveniles and young adults in your neighborhoods and schools that probably should not be there.  A young vulnerable girl can be charmed, coerced, drugged and turned, literally in days.  Know who ALL your daughter’s friends are!  Know who their parents are.  Know where they live.  Know their phone numbers and Email addresses.  Always know where your daughter is!  Don’t apologize for insisting on this information!  It is sadly a part of being a responsible parent in this day and age.

In Oregon, contact OATH (Oregonians Against Trafficking of Humans) 503-251-2479 for more information, or the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, 1-888-373-7888.