What does the face of human trafficking look like?
Jasmine Marino-Fiandaca, a self-described "girl next door," is challenging stereotypes regarding sex slavery victims in hopes of raising awareness about the dehumanizing industry that changed the trajectory of her life when she was just 19 years old.
In a video posted to Seacoast Online, a YouTube channel managed by the Portsmouth Herald, Marino-Fiandaca explained that she wound up being trafficked in a Hartford, Conn., massage parlor after an abusive man "coerced" her into believing he could provide her with wealth and a family. In total, she spent five years as a sex slave in Connecticut and Maine -- as well as being exploited through Craigslist -- before leaving the man she once considered her "boyfriend."
"I tried to escape many times, but it was very difficult because of the manipulation, the brainwashing and the abuse, the beatings and the lack of resources and places for me to go," she explained in the video.
Unfortunately, Marino-Fiandaca's story isn't as rare as some would hope. About 15,000 people are being trafficked in the U.S., and, according to Shared Hope International, a nonprofit combating domestic human trafficking, most states could be doing much more to stop the injustice.
Although it's painful, Marino-Fiandaca said she wants to share her story if it means saving others from the horrors of sex trafficking.
"You're somebody's daughter or mother, or niece, sister, and you have value," she said in the video. "There's plans and purpose for your life, way beyond anything that you can imagine. But being abused and sold is not one of them."
In the U.S., you can call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888 to get help and connect with a service provider in your area, or report a tip with information on potential human trafficking activity.