Posted: Apr 4, 2013 10:27 AM by Lindsey Gordon - MTN News
Updated: Apr 4, 2013 10:44 AM
HELENA - A horrific reality: children and teens, most often girls, sold for sex. Victims are speaking out and warning Montanans to wake up because it could be happening in our community.
"Slavery is still alive and there's 300,000 American children who are sold every year into what we call modern day slavery, human trafficking," Melissa Woodward, a victim of sex trafficking, said.
"Beginning at the age of four, I was molested. By the time I was 12, I was put underneath the ground, where I stayed 16 hours a day, hand-cuffed to a metal twin-sized bed," she explained.
Another victim, Ashley, said, "I didn't know it was real until I was in it."
A jumbled past of sexual abuse and drug use led Ashley to run away from home at 16. She was picked up by a group of men in Dallas and was forced into prostitution, with no way out and no one she could trust.
"The sad thing is, the law enforcement was the one buying me. Firefighters were buying me, doctors. Guys who are supposed to protect you and make you safe and make you feel better were the ones putting money into my hand," Ashley said.
Using websites like Backpage and Craigslist, "Johns," as they call them, look for postings for blatant offers for sex in exchange for money.
Melissa started a non-profit called For The Sake Of One where she works to rescue girls and teens who are trafficked. She says she knows it's happening here in Montana, especially with the recent Bakken Oil boom in eastern Montana and North Dakota.
"You know Montana's smaller and more rural, a pimp can bring girls up here and the money and with the law enforcement being behind, it's a really good fit," Melissa said.
After less than a year, Ashley was rescued by a male friend, but the experience of being trafficked will affect her for the rest of her life.
"I still see guys not as people. I see them as abusers and people who are going to hurt me. I kind of still feel the guys all over me. I can like, feel them touching me and sometimes, I'm just like, get off, you know, I have to say that to myself."
"I'm not a prostitute, I'm a kid whose been trafficked," she added.
Click here to visit For The Sake Of One and learn more about the issue.