Warning: Some content from Amy’s story is graphic.
WARRENTON, Va. (WDVM) — Amy was in her twenties and in college when she found out she was pregnant. The single mom endured a high-risk pregnancy and had her daughter prematurely. “Because of the medical needs she had, she couldn’t be in a daycare environment so it was a lot more beneficial for her if I worked at night,” said Amy.
Amy found a job at a strip club. She was approached by her trafficker on her second night of work after, she believes, the managers tipped him off that she was new.
“I was very naive to the industry, so I had no clue as to what was going on in that environment and that industry in general… how it’s a big attraction for human traffickers to target,” said Amy.
The man paid Amy to sit and talk with her for hours. Amy told him her story, including the fact that she was working counties over from where she lived and that she was a single mom.
“That was how he basically led me into the process of what would become my initial recruitment, which was a very violent, 12-hour ordeal where I was held, repeatedly raped by multiple men, and severely beaten to almost dying by my trafficker in order to bring me under their control and basically be completely compliant with what they were going to have me do,” said Amy.
Amy was raped and beaten by her trafficker, his associates, customers, and buyers over the course of a couple of months in multiple strip clubs and private residences. While money was exchanged, none of it went to Amy. Sometimes they would threaten her daughter.
“That was a huge motivating factor,” said Amy. “That was even more powerful than violence; I mean, you could beat me all day long, but if I feel like there’s a threat to my child in any way, you know, whether it’s physical or not…you say, “Jump,” I say, How high.'”
It takes human trafficking victims multiple attempts to escape. Amy tried many times, only to be found, beaten, and manipulated. When Amy gave birth to her second daughter, she worked even harder to escape. She enrolled back into school and says she got help shortly after starting when she was assigned a victim advocate.
“They connected me with a task force in the area, and they started disclosing certain things to them, and they started identifying things for what it was — that it was human trafficking — that I had been trafficked. And I had no clue,” she said.
Amy has since relocated to Northern Virginia. She works with the Just Ask Prevention Project, a nonprofit that trains law enforcement officers and members in the community in human trafficking awareness.
“So many of the victims that I worked with in my time as a law enforcement officer would tell me during interviews, ‘I just didn’t know. I didn’t know what was happening to me, I didn’t know where to go for help when bad things were happening,'” said Bill Woolf, executive director of Just Ask. “It really has become a passion for me, personally, as well as for our organization to make sure young people have the tools and skills and resources available to them to be able to prevent it and to seek help when bad things do happen.”
“I had the fortunate pleasure of meeting her after the victimization, so after she was on the road to recovery,” said Woolf. “I have to say, having heard her story many times, working with her, knowing what she’s been through, she’s an incredibly strong young woman who has been to hell and back and is using those experiences to ensure that others don’t have to go through what she has.”
“There’s different things for everybody to do, and I think that with the work that Just Ask is doing, if I had had any kind of idea of what was going on or what this crime was; if people around me had any education on human trafficking; I could’ve been helped sooner,” said Amy. “It was only years after I was able to get out on my own and there were people who were trained, who were educated, who had that piece. That was when I was finally able to connect the dots and get real assistance in my healing process.”