ONLY ON 3: Sex trafficking survivor speaks out after years of bondage

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – For centuries people have been falling in love.

With that timeless action comes the devotion to each other, a willingness to serve and the often rose-tinted glasses that can blind people of red flags.

For one South Carolina woman, the actions of love she says cost her her freedom.

January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month. One woman decided after years of being kept as a modern-day sex slave she wanted to share her story from bondage to freedom.

The woman told News 3 in an exclusive interview she began dating a man when she was 19 years-old. The woman became pregnant and gave birth to a girl. She says eight months later, “I was pushed into the business.”

“At that time I thought I had no choice, that was the only way out to success, ” she said.

Day-by-day year she was sold online through Backpage to clients across state lines between Georgia and South Carolina.

“Were you ever beaten,” Reporter Meredith Stutz asked. “I was,” she said. “I was beaten. For taking too long or maybe or maybe I enjoyed it or something.”

She says she was able to escape him after he was arrested on a different charge.

Her nightmare of being a sex trafficked victim wasn’t over. Soon, she says, she met another ‘charming’ man who became her boyfriend and her pimp who knew about her previous relationship.

“He came near me like he wanted to learn about God,” she says. “He took away my family. He took away my eating habits. He took away my social media. He took away my friends. He took away my daughter, He took away my vocabulary,” she says.

She says he made her feel inferior to the point where she felt she couldn’t speak and lost her ability to communicate. She says she was branded with a tattoo to let clients know she was her pimp’s property.

Over the four years she was trafficked by the two boyfriends, she says she had to service 1,500 clients.

Finally, it took her pimp going after what she held most valuable for her to stand up for herself.

“I got out, yes, because of my daughter. I got out because she was being harmed, me dragging her down with this man,” she said.

In 2015, she became liberated through the help of local services. Now she says she’s doing well, living on her own with her daughter and holding a steady job. The woman says she is determined to use her pain to advocate for others.

“I’m speaking out for all the young girls for all the teenagers for all the beautiful women who have been abused as a child and belittled in relationships. I’m doing it for them,” she said.

Now with her voice back and confidence emerging once again, she says she will continue to fight to raise awareness for sex trafficking in the local area and redefine what love is for women in her same circumstance.

“We don’t know if we can speak up, we don’t know how. And I’m doing it for those who don’t know how to speak up yet.”

To contact the National Human Trafficking Resource Center 24-hour hotline, call 1 (888) 373-7888.

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