Earlier this week, the FBI announced the recovery of more than 100 victims of child sex trafficking and the arrests of 150 pimps during a three-day nationwide sweep to fight illegal sex work. During a HuffPost Live discussion on domestic sexual victimization of children, guest Holly Smith, a survivor of child trafficking, shared her story.
Smith was trafficked about 20 years ago after meeting a man at a mall in New Jersey. "It was a regular shopping mall that my parents and I went shopping--school shopping at every year, but this guy managed to exchange phone numbers with me," she told host Caitlyn Becker. "We talked on the phone for about two weeks, and he sort of tapped into my interests and my concerns and he was able to play off of my vulnerabilities."
The man convinced Smith, who was 14 at the time, to run away from home with lavish promises.
"He was able to lure me away from home with things like -- he could help me become a model, he could help me become a songwriter because I really wanted to join a rock band. Things that might sound not so real to an adult. They worked well on me at 14. And so he lured me away from home, and within hours of running away, I was forced into prostitution in Atlantic City, N.J."
Smith's nightmare ended when she was arrested. "Luckily for me, I was only trafficked for about 36 hours and I was arrested in Atlantic City by police officers. And while I'm grateful that I was pulled off the street, I received no services. So I'm concerned about all the girls who've been picked--all the girls and boys out there today getting picked up by law enforcement, what services are they receiving afterwards?"
Smith later learned that the man whom she spoke to on the phone and the man who met her at the mall were two different people.
"About 20 years later, I went to the Atlantic County Prosecutor's office and got my police records and found out that it was actually a completely different person talking to me on the phone for those two weeks, and that guy was more--he was able to tap into my interests and concerns, whereas this guy who I met in person was better at forcing a girl to do what he wanted her to do. It was his intimidating demeanor that I--I just listened to what he said because I was kind of afraid of his personality. He was able to exploit me in other ways as well."