Woman Sold into Sex Slavery at Age 10 Reveals How It Could Happen to Any Kid


WFLA and Knock Television/Youtube

The terms "human trafficking" or "sex slave" strike fear into the hearts of all parents. But while we certainly worry about these things happening to our kids, we often view them as being highly unlikely, or as something that only happens in "bad" places far away from us. After being sold into sexual slavery at the age of 10, one woman is speaking out to warn parents that the dangers are a little closer to home than they might think.

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Edie Rhea told WFLA she was forced into sex slavery by her mother's boyfriend, who began abusing her in the early years of her childhood. "At 8, he started sexually abusing me," she said. "And then by 10 he started selling me.”

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The woman says she was kept as a sex slave for seven years. Rhea said that most of the time, she was forced to sell herself at a park near her childhood home in Tampa, Florida. "I would go to school, come home, throw my books down and then … cars would pull up, trucks, vans, and they would park," she said. "I would meet, you know, the men and work."

Rhea admitted she feared what her mother's boyfriend would do to her if she refused to "work" or managed to tell anyone what he was forcing her to do. "He would threaten me, threaten to kill me, threaten to kill my mom," she recalled.

Now, years after her escape, the woman is working hard to help victims of human trafficking and educate others about a little-thought-of but widespread issue. "We have to stop this epidemic right now," she said. 


WFLA

Rhea's description of human trafficking in the United States as an "epidemic" may seem extreme to some, but statistics show that she's actually right on target. With an estimated 4.5 million people being sexually exploited globally, these numbers are absolutely staggering. In 2017, the National Human Trafficking Resource Center opened 3,186 sex trafficking cases in the United States alone. Of those cases, 1,438 involved children. Additionally, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children posits that one in six children reported as runaways in the US in 2016 were likely victims of sex trafficking.

Special Agent James Spero, who is in charge of the Department of Homeland Security Investigations Tampa office, told WFLA that common misconceptions about human trafficking keep people from truly being able to protect their families. "It could be going on right in your neighborhood or right down the road from where you work," he explained.

Human trafficking can seem like an issue too large and imposing to solve, but there are many things regular people can do to keep their children safe and help save others. The Department of Homeland Security Investigations says that if a child has stopped attending school, suddenly seems disconnected from friends and family, or is showing signs of mental or physical abuse, these could be some indicators that he or she is being exploited. Parents and educators can find other ways to get involved and prevent abuse on the US Department of State website.

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For more information or to report someone that needs help, you can contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline, as well as the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. You can also donate to the Polaris Project, which works to pursue traffickers and rescue their victims.

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