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.
At 14 years old Samantha ran away from home and became involved with a local gang. She tells of how she was controlled by these people and forced to provide sexual services. The gang controlled when she ate, when she slept and if she showered. Samantha was finally able to escape by jumping out of a car while with a customer.
They held me in a house over by McKinley Park. And er I slept in the back room, there was bars on the windows, I slept on a dirty mattress. I was not allowed to leave unless they took me out and when they took me out they would make the deal, and somehow they made the deal to where the person would have to bring me back to where they picked me up. And it always worked. They always brought me back.
My name is Samantha, at age 14 I ran away from home the first time and my parents decided to put me into in-patient counselling, maybe it would help. Met up with a girl that I had known in foster care, we leave one day and she takes me to her sister who lives in Oklahoma City and she is involved in the Cripps gang and they leave me with them. And that’s how it started.
These people control every move you make, they control your body, they control who has access to your body. They literally control whether you eat, what you drink, where you sleep, if you get to take a shower, they control everything. That’s the difference between prostitution and being prostituted, there’s no choice. The very first time it happened I was taken to Clossen Motel and I can remember what he looks like, I can remember everything about him. And he said ‘you’re so young, why are you doing this’ and my thought was my God I’m not doing this, you know you bought me, you bought me. How am I doing this?
They put me in a car and I can remember everything about it.it was a blue car, the guy reaches over and puts his hand on my leg. And during that moment I knew he was going to kill me. Everything within me I could feel it. We had pulled up to a stop light and I reached down and grabbed the handle when he took off and I jumped out. Because he turned right, and I took off running and that was how I was able to get away.
My first thoughts when I was able to get away was how was I going to stay away, how was I gonna take care of myself. What was I going to do to survive? After living on the streets for a while I was picked up by this man and taken over by frontier city and he got me a motel room and he said I don’t want anything from you, I’m just going to give you a place to stay, but here’s a phone number that I want you to call. They call a lady that had a brothel here in the city and tried to get me into the brothel. But when I talked to her she said ‘how old are you?’ I said I’m seventeen. She said ‘I’m not taking you you’re too young’.
Because they did leave me alone during the day, at one point I was just like I’m tired and I’m ready to just have this all over with, I’m ready for it to be over with. I called the guy that I had been dating before, when I was in foster care, and he came and picked me up and took me to the HS (Department of Human Services). And they didn’t do anything. They didn’t do anything. And I aged out. I graduated high school, miraculously, I don’t know how. I graduated high school and erm started you know trying to make a life.
I do remember at one point a DHS worker came into the house and I was in the NCIC system at that time, she just looked at me and didn’t even ask me any questions. Looking the way I looked, you would think that she would stop and ask questions but she just looked at me and went on. So that could’ve been the end of it right there but it wasn’t.
If you were to go to the police, what are they gonna say? Oh you’re a runaway for one thing, why did you run away? That doesn’t matter. That doesn’t matter one bit. What’s happened to you while you ran away? That doesn’t matter. That doesn’t matter one bit. You’re just a runaway.
I was working as a domestic violence case manager and went to a seminar on human trafficking for OATH and when I was sitting there listening to this girl tell her story, I about fell out of my chair. Literally because she was telling my story. Then you realise you know, it’s real, it’s real. It wasn’t me. I started crying I had to get up and leave because I knew I was going to be ok. From that point on I knew I was gonna be ok. Literally that day changed my life. If anything can change anything, that day changed my life.
If it wasn’t for those programmes and those organizations, I wouldn’t be where I’m at now. I know that. And I wouldn’t be healed. But I’m healing. I’m hopeful that there’s gonna be a girl someday that I’m gonna make a difference for. That I’m gonna be, ok I helped her, and she’s gonna go that girl helped me, I’m gonna help somebody else. And then that girl’s gonna help somebody else.
Narrative produced and provided by OATH