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. The situations that sex trafficking victims face vary, many victims become romantically involved with someone who then forces them into prostitution. Others are lured with false promises of a job, and some are forced to sell sex by members of their own families. Victims of sex trafficking include both foreign nationals and US citizens, with women making up the majority of those trafficked for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation. In 2015, the most reported venues/industries for sex trafficking included commercial-front brothels, hotel/motel-based trafficking, online advertisements with unknown locations, residential brothels, and street-based sex trafficking.
Jeri Williams left an abusive marriage and moved to Portland where she thought he would have a better life. However, she was jumped by a gang and forced to work on the streets as a prostitute. Jeri was finally able to escape with the help of West Women’s Shelter and talks about the help she received from fellow survivors.
My first husband was incredibly violent. I left him and I moved to Portland. A young lady moved in with me to babysit my kids. Her brother was in a gang. I got jumped into the gang by being raped by all of them, and so then I was forced out onto the streets from 8 o’clock at night till 5 in the morning, 7 days a week. I felt like there was no way I could get out. I had to have engagements with 15 people a night before I could come home. I got into the West Women’s Shelter in northwest Portland. They worked with me. I had a psychiatrist. I had a caseworker. I had a counsellor. And I got sent to this organization. It was run by survivors who were also the counsellors. It was people saying that, "I see you and I care," because when you’re out on the streets, people look right through you like you’re invisible. And that was the thing I think that turned things around for me most.
Courtesy of the Office for Victims of Crime