“At 15 years old, I never even heard of sex trafficking,” 23-year-old Alyssa Beck said in a CBS News 48 Hours report.
But there she was, at just 15, being beaten and raped by a trafficking predator.
Beck ran away from her home near Jacksonville, FL on several occasions due to family issues. At first, she would leave for a few days at a time but eventually, it turned into more prolonged periods. She began to dabble in drinking and drugs during this time. Finally, she was arrested and brought to a juvenile delinquent center after she gave police officers a fake name.
“I was told that since Alyssa was a continual runaway,” her mother Heather said, “if I had her arrested for providing a false name, she would be able to receive additional services,” such as counseling.
It was at the juvenile center, though, that Alyssa met the person who would introduce her to the world of sex trafficking. She was 17 years old, and Alyssa looked up to her. So, when the older girl suggested they run away together, Alyssa followed her lead.
They ended up in Jacksonville’s Sin City, which is rife with crime. It was there that Alyssa learned her new friend was a prostitute, but she still felt compelled to stay, fearful of having to go home or being arrested for fleeing juvie.
It wasn’t long before Alyssa was being beaten, raped, and force-fed drugs. This went on for about two weeks.
“I do remember men just coming in,” Alyssa said. “At one point, I was laying on the bed completely naked, cause that is how I always stayed. And opening my eyes and just seeing a blur of a man on top of me and just saying, ‘No, no get off of me.’”
Alyssa was eventually able to escape and call her mom, who subsequently called the police. Alyssa was hospitalized but eventually arrested again for leaving juvie.
“They didn’t treat me like a victim,” she said. “I was just like another criminal in their eyes.”
When she got home, she started to run away again and was picked up by another trafficker. He posted pictures of her on Backpage.com (which was recently shut down by the feds) and she was once again pushed into the world of forced drug use and rape.
She eventually escaped and decided to get retribution against her captor, but ultimately landed back in jail for her actions. While in jail, she spent time thinking about her experiences and came to the conclusion that she wasn’t alone in them. She vowed to help others get through what she had.
Because of the widespread nature of sex trafficking, actor and activist Ashton Kutcher has decided to take a stand.
“It can happen to anyone,” Kutcher said. “Traffickers prey on people and they know exactly what’s gonna turn their trigger.”
“What we do at our core is build technology to help fight sexual exploitation of children,” Kutcher said.
In 2013, the Thorn team developed software they called Spotlight.
“We basically take a victim, that otherwise is just a posting online, and we turn them into a human being,” Kutcher said, explaining the tech. “And then we take that and connect them with someone that can help.”
Spotlight is now used by about 6,000 law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and identifies about 5 people a day, Kutcher reported.
It was Thorn that brought Kutcher and Alyssa together. Kutcher invited Alyssa, who has become an advocate for victims of sex trafficking, to speak about her experiences at an organization event.
Hopefully, Kutcher and Alyssa’s work alongside the work of other activists will help rescue other sex trafficking victims or simply inspire victims to reach out for help.
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