There are an estimated 403,000 people living in modern slavery in the United States (GSI 2018). Sex trafficking exists throughout the country. 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.
Bianca was a teenager when she began talking to a man named Shy on the internet. At the age of 16 she travelled to San Jose to meet him. Bianca was taken to Shy’s tattoo shop and prevented from leaving. Shy placed an ad on the internet and took photos of Bianca, and then forced her in to prostitution. Bianca was finally able to leave when she feared for her life after being threatened by Shy.
I call him Shy. Yeah that’s what everybody really calls him, they know him by Shy.
Erm I came across his tattoo page on Instagram and saw he had a lot of followers and I liked his tattoos so I would like his pictures and then he started liking mine and he would comment on my pictures and we exchanged numbers and then we started exchanging pictures and talking more and stuff like that so. And that was when I was like 15 or 14 we started talking and texting. And then erm, once I was 16 I had left from, I think I was home at the time and I left from home and I went with a boyfriend and me and my boyfriend got in an argument, and Shy kept telling me like to go with him, and that I had a good chance of like getting money, and he was gonna go to Vegas for his birthday and he just wanted me to go and have fun with him. And then erm I paid for a taxi from Modesto to like San Jose, it was like $200, and I paid for it to go meet up with Shy. And then from then, Shy said we’re going to Las Vegas and next thing you know we’re at his tattoo shop and he tell me he wants to try it out or whatever, and we ended up having sex. And from there we went to motel six and I didn’t know exactly what was going to happen or go on, but erm he ended up posting an ad for me and taking pictures of me and all that. So from there, he had me meeting with guys and I didn’t really know what to do, but I was with Adda Sully at the time and Jocelyn and erm Adda Sully were the ones who were working and stuff. Then when I wanted to leave, Shy said I couldn’t leave.
[Interviewer: So, if we, just if we back up for a second erm you were saying that he erm, you guys were like texting or like sending messages over Instagram and pictures and stuff? Like what would you, like were they flirty pictures and text messages? Like sexting?]
Yeah, more like sexting. And then he would be like Oh God I love you so much. [laughter]
I don’t know [what I liked about him], he was just like a bad boy I guess. Like he was a bad boy with tattoos and money, and he seemed like he had it all like the cars, the money, everything. He had a bunch of Jordans so I was like hey well this guy looks like he’s really about it and he has his stuff together and I wanna like be with him. But at first it was like I want to be with him but once I saw how it was like okay I realise now that it’s never going to be like that so I’m just friends with him or whatever.
Once I met him. Because he would have sex with other girls like in front of me and stuff like so I was just like, it’s not like how I thought, but I don’t know. And then that’s when he had his friends go to the hotel room and like have them basically do whatever they wanted with me. And when I told him about it he didn’t care. Like I told him how I was fighting back and stuff and he, he didn’t care. He just laughed. So it was like okay, now I know this guy doesn’t care about me either in any way.
Bianca: Erm it went to me like trying to leave every day, I would call people, I would talk around the hotel calling people, telling them to pick me up. And Shy told me that if I had anybody try to pick me up that he would kill them before they took off with me. Yeah, so I was like really scared and now I told them never mind don’t come, like because I care about like my friends too and I didn’t want anything bad happening to them. So, I told them not, not to go and then I asked him like ‘Hey I have family in the area, can I go see them?’ and he’s like ‘Yeah but I’m gonna pick you up and I’m gonna drop you off and do all that’ and I’m like ‘that’s fine’. And then I went with one of my cousins and I just left with my cousin to and never went back for a while. And then I ended up going back because we ended up contacting each other again. So.
A normal day was basically like, at first like I didn’t, I didn’t do drugs or anything at first like, Adda Sully who was the one who like would be there and she uh, one day she came out and she like she went outside to get something from Shy, and then she came back and she had like a little bag of white stuff. I didn’t even know what it was, like I didn’t know anything about it. And she started breaking it up and stuff and I was getting scared ‘cause I didn’t know what it was. And she would do her drugs and she was like ‘it helps me stay up’ and I was just there like clueless, like I didn’t understand really. And then um I’ve, like the first time I worked for him it wasn’t really like how it is now. It was just you. ‘Cause he didn’t even know what he was going, we were his first girls that he had working for him. So, we were there and erm the first time I worked for him I only had probably like about like five to eight guys a day. And um as soon as the guys came and, and left like as soon as they walked out the door, he came to collect the money. He wouldn’t let me hold on to it. And he told me I was gonna get money out of it. I never got any money or nothing our of it, and so yeah. But when I started working for him again, it was up to like more than 20 guys a day. Because he would tell us, ‘you guys have to make $1000, and then you guys could go to sleep’. So that’s when I started using drugs, I started doing stuff to stay up also.
[I would make $1000] Basically, seeing guys, a whole bunch of different guys doing what they wanted. Like selling myself basically.
He would hit us girls a lot. Like for any little thing, if he didn’t like the way we talking to him, he would hit us he would take away our phone, threaten to hurt our families and everything. Like he would tell us like a lot of threats. He would be like I’m gonna have a whole bunch of guys come and they could pay only $20 and they’ll do whatever they want to me. And he’d tell us, you could cry as loud as want, I’m gonna take out the phone from the room so you can’t call nobody, and I’m not going to help you.
The last time I saw him was on February 7th. That’s when I left.
That’s when I was working for him.
I don’t know [what I would say to him now]. Like it’s just crazy because they always tell me ‘oh he’s in jail we need help for his bail, we need help for this, we need help for that for him’ and they would always lie about it so when they, his baby’s mom contacted me this time saying that he was in jail, I didn’t believe it. But I woke up, I look at TV and next thing you know it’s saying Ariel Gazzara and Adda Sully Mendoza and I’m just like, wait, wait like and I started crying. I’m not gonna lie like I was crying. Not because like oh my God I’m so sad he’s locked up. But because I’m relieved. I feel like, okay he’s locked up, I could go back to living my life. I don’t have to worry about him keep contacting me, threatening. Telling me he’s gonna post stuff about me if I don’t work. Like, I feel relieved, I feel free. And the other girls feel like that too that worked for him, because they call me and they cried too like we were crying on the phone together because we were so relieved. And it’s just, he messed up our lives really bad, and some people say that because we decided to go with him that we messed up our own lives, but honestly it that, he like, if he would’ve never talked to us the way he did, and have us do what we do, I’m pretty sure we wouldn’t be so scared. We would be like, like ‘cause he played a lot of mind games with us so it’s like our thinking and stuff. Like we’re kind of like. We don’t trust nobody no more because of it. Like we’re scared to say anything, we’re scared to do something because we’re always scared that he’s gonna be there to do something to us, for what we say or do. Because he gets mad at me just for telling him how I feel. When I tell him how I feel that’s when he decided to hit me, because he say that I’m talking smack about him. But it’s not talking smack it’s just saying how I feel and the truth.
[Interviewer: Bianca, why did you agree to do this interview?]
Because like, I don’t know. Like I feel like there a lot of girls out there probably going through the same thing, and they’re probably with a pimp or a boyfriend or something that’s telling them ‘oh baby, if you loved me you would, like you would work for me and you would, we could make all this money and then we could be together and we could be happy. We’ll be set’. But none of that is true because if a guy loved you, he wouldn’t have you having sex with other guys for money. He would be the one that wants to be your only one, like he’s not gonna be like go do this. He’s not gonna put you in danger like that. Shy made it seem like he loved all of us. He would call me his little sister. What kind of guy has his little sister working on the streets having sex with guys? Shy, Shy told us to walk the street before he told us to have sex with whoever. We, he told us to do whatever we need to do. Like when we wanted to go see him or like, spend time with him he would be like ‘oh well you better like, do something with a guy to get a ride over here because I’m not gonna waste my gas to go see you. Like he would tell us that. And us being stupid, we would do what er had to do just to go be with him, and he would always make it seem like my family hated me. He would tell me bad things about my family, acting like he talked to them, telling me that they said they didn’t care about me. And none of it was true, but I lost my family because of that. And I always believed him over anybody. When I had boyfriends and stuff, he would, he would get me to break up with my boyfriends. He would get me to leave all the people that wanted to see me, to do good, because I though oh nah, they’re just trying to mess up my life right now, I’m just worried about getting my money. Getting what money thought? When I didn’t even get a dollar out of it, I probably made over $20 000 the whole time I was working for him. And I never got a dollar out of it. I never got shoes, I never got clothes, nothing. And I always needed clothes. When I was with him I would always tell him, ‘Shy I don’t have clothes, I’ve been wearing like the same thing, I need new clothes’. And he wouldn’t, Shy wouldn’t care, he would just care about himself. And he would make it seem like he cared about his daughter, he would hit us while he was holding his daughter. He would do drugs around his daughter, his daughter was in the hotel bathrooms waiting with us while somebody else had a date, like a guy in the room. So it’s like, how do you care about your daughter when you’re having her for from hotel room to hotel room at only 4 or 5 months. Like, it’s a baby, she shouldn’t even be in a hotel room like that. She shouldn’t be around any of this, she should be home. Like she should be watching like cartoons and stuff on TV, trying to learn to speak and walk. She can do none of that in the hotel room. Like, that’s no way to live.
Erm,[there were] a few [of us]. Sometimes it was 10 of us in one room and sometimes we’ get at least two or three rooms just for all of us to be able to work. ‘Cause he just wanted money so he said ‘oh if you need to get more room because you guys are getting so many guys then we’ll do that’. He’s like, ‘cause we don’t want to miss out on, on money.
There’s a website, it’s like Craigslist and it has a section for escorts.
[Interviewer asks if it’s Backpage?]
Yeah. So it had a section for escorts and that’s where the girls would post their ads and stuff. And yeah, and we would get like a texting app number and they would call us and we would talk to them and given them the address. And we wouldn’t like discuss nothing except for like the time basically that they wanted to spend with us. But really it was just all sex.
[Interviewer asks if Bianca is scared she’ll go back]
Honestly, not really. But at the same time it is a temptation because it’s fast money, it’s a lot of money. But honestly, I don’t think I’m gonna go back at all. Like to go through all this already for, for the past few years, like with my life. And it’s just, I don’t want to do none of it anymore. Like I just want to do good. Like it sucks when you’re in a hotel room and you’re seeing your friends post on Instagram, snapchat or whatever about how they’re graduating from high school, they’re going to prom, they’re doing all this stuff and you couldn’t do it because you were in hotel rooms, you were working. And it just sucks because I missed out on a lot. But honestly, I could do better now and I could be part of my friends lives now, my brothers and sisters they’re starting to talk to me again because they’re seein that I want to make a change. And it just feels good to have my family back because, honestly, before I had nobody to talk to. I’d be locked in a hotel room, I would cry about how I was sad and wanted to leave but, I couldn’t tell my family. Because they saw it as okay you chose him over us so there’s nothing we can do. It was embarrassing because my brother found my ad online one time, my older brother. And he told me too like what are you doing with your life? And he told me if you want to be on the streets like that then do it, he’s like, I tried to help you so much and I could only do so much for you. And to me I was like ‘oh I don’t care I have Shy. He’s my big brother like, I’m Shy’s little sister, I don’t care about you’. But obviously, I should have, I should have listened to them earlier but I never did.
[How much would what cost?]
Bianca: it just relly depends on like, because he’s the one that sets the prices for you and erm, the days where like, we were making good money Why would be okay with us having our prices high which was like 200 or 300 for an hour or whatever. But when there’s no money coming in, he would tell us ‘okay, you guys are gonna start doing like $70 for an hour, you guys are gonna start going $50 for this much time’. And it kind of like made you feel like crap because it’s like, why am I gonna go put my prices so low for so much time. That’s like basically giving myself away for free.
[Were you ever scared?]
Yeah, ‘cause they were random guys and we never knew if it was gonna be like a cop and us get in trouble for like prostitution or something. And erm, there’s times where the guys have tried to rob us. They would stalk us, there’s times where the guys would threaten us, there’s times where guys tried to kidnap us and everything. And it’s just really scary because you never know who’s the guy, who’s the next guy who’s gonna walk in through that door. You don’t know what they’re capable of, you don’t know what they have on them or anything. So it is scary because a lot of the guys, they would get mad at us too. So, it’s like you never really knew. I was always risky. It was always a risk you were gonna take, answering the door.
[How many times have you had a gun pointed at you?]
Erm, while working I had a few times but mostly it was by Shy when he wanted to like threaten us and stuff so. I don’t know.
It was a lot. But Shy always had his gun and he would always have it loaded and he would point it at all of us like trying to play around, but we would be scared because his finger would be by the trigger and it’s loaded. So, it’s like, I don’t know.
[Did you ever think you were going to die?]
Yeah, like I started thinking that this past time I was working for him, because he beat me quite a few times, he recorded me crying on the floor while he beat me. He had me go in the car naked with a blanket wrapped around me threatening to sell me on my birthday. So it’s like, I spent my 18th birthday locked in a hotel room. They made me think that we were going to Disneyland, we were going to do all this fun stuff and he got made at me because I asked him ‘what are we gonna do for my birthday?’ and that’s why he beat me and stuff. Because I told him I didn’t trust him because he never kept his word on deal that we made. Like he would come up with, and we would agree to, I told him I didn’t trust him because of that. And he got mad at me and he decided to beat me that day because I brought that up.
Kind of destroyed me, like I became a whole different person and I don’t know. Like my family stopped talking to me, Shy, I chose him over my family, chose him over my friends. I lost a lot of my family because of him. A lot of my relationship that I had, like I lost everything. All I was worried about was making Shy happy and I don’t know why. It’s just like I felt like I needed to make him happy.
Some days there’s 15 of us, some days there’s only one or two of us. But for the most part there was a lot of us and a lot of us were underage. So I was 16 when I start, when I started working for him. And I barely turned 18 on February 3rd so I’ve been working for him for a while. And once I was 18 he was like, okay, now he told me ‘now you could go to the clubs’ he’s like ‘now you could work there’ and I was just like oh my God he, he’s gonna have me do a lot of stuff I don’t want to do now so I don’t know. And it was like hard because when they would have me away form him, I would have nightmares of him making me do stuff I didn’t wanna do, that I would get in trouble for. So it kind of like, I feel like it was a sign to let me know like if I keep messing with him, it’s just going to go further and further.
I ended up leaving him because he told me and another girl that he was going to kill us so it’s like, it was either I stay there and key shot by him and killed, or we left. Like he said we would escape, he didn’t think we were gonna make it like far like, from where we were. But I know like not to just sit there and wait for him to come get me, like as soon as he told me to leave. Like the girl I was with, she was confused, she didn’t know what to do. I told her we’re gonna go to the gas station and I’m gonna ask somebody to use their phone and we’re gonna get out of here. We’re gonna go to my mom’s or something ‘cause she lives close by, and then from there you could find your way home. But you’re welcome to stay at my house as long as you want. And she was like, she was scared, she was crying and she kept crying and she was really scared. And I was scared too but I wasn’t going to sit there and cry at a gas station and wait for somebody to ask me if I needed help so I seek the help myself and I started asking people. I only asked two people to use their phones I asked, sorry I asked one person and I asked the gas station lady and she was like no sorry and was like okay it’s fine. And I saw a guy walking up and I was like ‘hey’ but he spoke Spanish, I was like ‘hey can I used your phone’ and he’s like ‘I’m sorry but I’m scared to let you use my phone’ I was like ‘oh it’s okay I understand. So I just walked away and I went back with my friend and when he came out he told me ‘you can use my phone, but you don’t have nobody with you right?’ I said I have a girl with me and I told him what was going on, I said ‘we’re running away from a guy right now and I really need to go home, I’m scared’ and this and that like I just told him everything. And then he said, he was like okay well I’m trusting you but I hope you’re not setting me up. I said I’m not setting you up, I don’t, I’m not like that like I don’t do that to people. So then um, I use this phone to call my mom and I was talking to my mom and then he’s like if you let me talk to you mom, he’s like, I’ll give you a ride to your house. I just want to make sure it’s your mom, I don’t want to get set up. And I was like okay okay, I was like thank you so much.
As told to Christine O’Donnell for Fox News