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Human trafficking is one of the largest criminal enterprises in the world, affecting every country and cities large and small. Here in Pittsburgh, efforts are underway to combat the growing problem, but lawmakers have been slow to react and police are not always properly trained.
There are no hard and fast statistics when it comes to human trafficking in the U.S. It's a hard crime to track and prosecute, and many of those affected are either not aware they are victims, or are uncooperative with authorities.
Plus, there are many forms of human trafficking. There is what many think of: young girls brought to the U.S. from other countries for servitude or prostitution. But that wasn't the case with Theresa Flores. She was 15 years old when a boy from her high school drugged and raped her, all while others were taking pictures that were later used as blackmail to keep her doing what they wanted.
"For two years I proceeded to be their sex slave. They would pick me up at night and take me to peoples' homes and I'd have to service man after man until they were ready to take me back home again, " said Flores.
Her family was living an upper-middle class life in suburban Detroit when she was trafficked. Even though she continued to live at home, her parents and friends never knew what was going on. She understands why it's hard to get women to open up; she never did.
"Because they threatened to kill my family. I was the oldest child and my dad traveled all the time. They said they'd kill my brothers, they'd kill my mom, and the threat of the pictures was huge, " said Flores.
The trafficking stopped when her father got another job and her family moved. It wasn't until many years later that Flores realized what had happened to her. That's when she started sharing her story and reaching out to other victims.
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