She wanted to be a dancer when she grew up…  . Or maybe a chef.but Kate became — a prostitute.

“I never wanted to do it. I never wanted to. I never thought i would be doing this.” Instead of lighting up a big stage…… Kate got locked up — in a sex trafficker’s basement — with nothing but a mattress…[bucket] as a bathroom.

 “He had his drug dealers and stuff just like rape me continuously in that particular room.”

It all started with a chance meeting at a train station. She was going to visit a friend when a young man told her she was beautiful.

“I’m 14-years-old starting to get into boys, you know. This guy likes me. Come on now. He’s really nice. He’s handsome.”

They exchanged phone numbers. Then started communicating often.soon he was buying her clothes and gifts. She thought they loved each other. She would do anything to make him happy. Including – sell her body.

“I felt disgusted but at the same time i thought that’s what he wanted from me. I thought that I was trying to please him in a way.”

Experts say Kate was a victim of a process called “grooming.”

Emily Pasnak Lapchik is an end trafficking program officer with UNICEF. She explained traffickers use mind games. They make victims think they are in love – then gradually replace loving actions with abuse.

“Children are very malleable, especially if that child has been abused in the home, which many trafficking victims have experienced prior abuse. They’re used to that cycle of abuse.”

Kate told us she was sexually abused as a child and she felt the same shame when she was trafficked. The man who first exploited her – eventually sold her to another trafficker. After years of servitude – she felt dirty and used but she wouldn’t dare show it to the buyers.

“You put on a front and a mask in a way. You have to make them think that you like it because if not they’re not gonna spend the money.”

If she didn’t get money — Kate would get beaten.  When she did get money – she wasn’t allowed to keep any of it for herself. It all went to her trafficker.that’s a common way to control victims.

Monroe County Detective Kim Lippincott told us she sees it all the time.

“A lot of time these women have no way out. The guys are controlling their money. Everytime they go out on a date or have a prostitution encounter, every penny that they get has to go to these guys.”

With no money, no job skills and no place to go — Kate felt stuck.

“It’s not as simple as oh why didn’t you just leave. Everyone asks me that and it’s not as easy as you think. It’s really not.”

She’s not the only teen or child who got trapped in trafficking. Pasnak-Lapchick emphasized this isn’t a far away problem and told us in the US most victims of sex trafficking are US citizens. Many are children.

“They should be treated as victims and provided services rather than being arrested.”an arrest – changed Kate’s life. She got sent to prison after a bust like this one. An undercover officer posed as a buyer and took her to jail.

 “I was bawling my eyes out and I was explaining to him that I didn’t want to do this. This is not what I want to do.”after the bust the FBI smuggled her away from her pimp and put her in touch with Valley Against Sex Trafficking. It’s in the Lehigh’s a faith- based charity that helps victims fight their way out of prostitution.

“We do a lot of in their life side by side. We’re doing life with them.”  said Christiana Domiguez -VAST

Vast staffers work closely with the charity “truth for women.” Together they provided Kate with extensive counseling. [counseling session.]she also got life skills, and job she’s pursing one of her childhood dreams – with a job as a cook.

 “They will love you and help you in anyway and they will do whatever they need to do to help you, to make you feel that you are special.”

Now Kate feels like she has a special purpose in life. She shared her story to tell sex buyers that there’s no such thing as a child prostitute – they are child rape victims.and even when the prostitutes are adults – they are also often trafficking victims. She wants women who feel trapped to know there is help.

 “You are you and you are a real person and people do love you.” Kate – sharing her journey from a life of fear and pain — to a life of hope and faith.

Experts say at least 100-thousand children in the u-s are at risk of being used by sex traffickers. You can protect your children by keeping open lines of communication and making sure your kids feel comfortable talking to you about anything. If you suspect someone is being trafficked – you can call the national human trafficking hotline. 

National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline 1 (888) 373-7888

Polaris Project Website

Valley Against Sex Trafficking  VAST Website