Getting Answers: sex trafficking victim shares her story

Getting Answers: sex trafficking victim shares her story
Updated: Nov. 3, 2022 at 5:55 PM EDT
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SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) - A tragic nightmare happened right under our noses. It’s a story told by a local woman who was forced to have sex with strangers after being kidnapped.

“Just do what you’re told and you’ll be fine,” said the woman, who we will call Jane, who has to remain anonymous for her own safety.

Those were the words Jane was told right after she was kidnapped. She sat down with Western Mass News to share her story of sex trafficking.

“This is going to be your life. He asked me how old I was and I said I was 17 and I said I don’t want to do this. He said it’s not really your choice,” Jane added.

Jane said she was kidnapped at the age of 17. She was a runaway, attempting to flee at a train station, when she was forced in the back of a van and knocked out. She said she woke up in a young child’s bedroom with no idea where she was. A large man she never met before informed her she was going to have to sleep with men.

“I hated every bit of it. It was the worst feeling, but I had to stay in character,” Jane explained.

In a matter of a month, she was forced to sleep with at least five guys, she told us. Jane recalled witnessing a woman get beaten for not following the man’s rules. She says she feared she could be next if she didn’t perform the sexual acts they asked her to.

“I thought I was going to be murdered. I thought I was going to be killed,” Jane noted.

Jane’s story is more common than many people would imagine. Hampden District Attorney Anthony Gulluni said he sees cases in western Massachusetts.

“Prevalence is a hard definition to come up with. We’ve prosecuted upwards of 10 cases in the last several years. Right now, there’s three cases pending or in the chute,” Gulluni said.

His office is part of the Western Massachusetts Human Trafficking Task Force, which is aimed at investigating sex trafficking rings, like the one Jane was involved in. He said, more often than not, the criminals target women who are vulnerable luring them with money, drugs, or a place to call home.

“The victim, the person often prosecuting himself or herself or being used, is dealing with substance use disorders and or mental health issues, so traffickers, not unlike many criminals, really focus on victimizing the most vulnerable people among us,” Gulluni noted.

Amber Estelle works with victims of these crimes at the YWCA of Western Massachusetts. Working with victims over the last two years, she said they often need a lot of resources.

“We’ve probably seen maybe 40 or 50 people come in and out of the program…It’s usually multiple victimizations for the most part. You see domestic violence and sexual assault all combined,” Estelle said.

Jane was able to use a phone to call for help and was eventually rescued by police. She testified against her abusers in court and they were sent to jail. Now she has a daughter of her own and is a business owner, but she continues to try and help those in a situation, similar to the one she once suffered in..

“I could not live my life knowing I saved myself, but not the next person,” Jane said.