Parents describe how daughter became a sex trafficking victim in new BCA video
ST PAUL, Minn. (KARE) — “It happened in the blink of an eye.”
A Minnesota mother and father describe how their daughter went from an average suburban teen into a victim of sex trafficking whose life is forever changed, in a new video released by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA). Their real life story is a living, breathing warning about how children and young adults can get pulled into the sex trade.
At a press conference explaining and answering questions about the video, BCA Superintendent Drew Evans told reporters that every month in Minnesota more than 10,000 ads are posted online selling victims for sex.
“When a trafficker is trying to groom you, it happens in a series of stages. They identify your vulnerabilities, gain your trust, develop a bond with you,” Evans explained. “They meet your needs, whether it’s for shelter, food or affection. They isolate you from your family and friends, sexualize your relationship, and exploit and control you through threats or force.”
That description cuts close to the bone for the unnamed family in the video. The teen’s parents describe her as a bubbly personality, a young woman with “the biggest heart I know,” her mother says, also calling her smart and extremely funny. They loved to watch her dive competitively, and took pride in the person their daughter was.
“I don’t think anyone is a ‘Leave it to Beaver’ family anymore, but we were a normal family,” her father explains in the BCA video. “When we moved to the area we are in, in suburbia, you didn’t think this can happen so close to home, in an environment you hand picked to live in.”
The trouble started, as it often does, when their daughter started hanging out with the wrong crowd. They recognized growing drug and alcohol use, and rebellious behavior escalated. Eventually her parents gave her an ultimatum: Go to treatment, or leave home. She chose the latter, and ended up staying overnight in a shelter... where she met the people who would end up trafficking her for sex.
Her parents say their daughter is a person who trusts immediately and sometimes recklessly, which her groomers took immediate advantage of. Even after she left the shelter and returned home for a short period, they continuously contacted her on social media. “Come with us, and you’ll have freedom,” they told her, and one Sunday night she snuck out and met up with the traffickers.
The teen was taken to a hotel, where she recalls being moved from room to room by a maintenance person so customers could have sex with her. Dependent on medication, the traffickers would bring her home to pick up prescriptions. Her parents saw her decline... saw signs of drug use, clothes they had never seen before, noticed she wouldn’t make eye contact... but they couldn’t make her stay.
She later told her parents that those prostituting her kept her drugged, and threatened to kill her family if she stopped working and left. Eventually, in a moment when a man trafficking her left the hotel room, she talked to her mother who convinced the teen to call 911. The officer who responded didn’t believe her story, so her mom called the BCA task force to intervene.
This is a story that doesn’t have a happy ending, not yet anyway. While she is at home, the girl’s parents say she is depressed, has no pride in her appearance as she used to, and carries a weapon anywhere she goes.
“It’s taken the life out of her,” her father says.
They say the traffickers still drive by their home, making the family feel uneasy. Their supposedly idyllic suburban life was turned upside down in just two-and-a-half weeks.
“Things like this don’t happen to families like us,” her mother says, fighting back tears.
There are resources available for victims of trafficking and people who love them.
Help for victims
- Safe Harbor Minnesota: health.state.mn.us/communities/safeharbor
- Minnesota Day One Crisis Line: 866-223-1111, dayoneservices.org
- If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call 911.
- Report suspected trafficking to the BCA at 877-996-6222, email@example.com
- Learn to recognize trafficking: https://polarisproject.org/recognizing-human-trafficking/
Copyright 2022 KVLY. All rights reserved.