Trafficking story told

Theresa+Flores%2C+a+survivor+of+sex+trafficking%2C+speaks+with+students+in+Reeve+Memorial+Union.
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Trafficking story told

Theresa Flores, a survivor of sex trafficking, speaks with students in Reeve Memorial Union.

Theresa Flores, a survivor of sex trafficking, speaks with students in Reeve Memorial Union.

Hannah Preissner

Theresa Flores, a survivor of sex trafficking, speaks with students in Reeve Memorial Union.

Hannah Preissner

Hannah Preissner

Theresa Flores, a survivor of sex trafficking, speaks with students in Reeve Memorial Union.

Lydia Westedt, Assistant Sports Editor

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A survivor of human sex trafficking brought tears to the eyes of many UW Oshkosh students and community members as she shared her story of survival, recovery and advocacy last Friday.

Despite being a “normal kid” from a “normal family,” Theresa Flores fell victim to human trafficking at only 15 years old. Flores emphasized that human trafficking can happen to anyone, and sadly, you don’t always notice that it’s happening.

Because of her father’s job, her family moved every two years.

“I was always the new kid,” Flores said.

She explained that because she moved often, she didn’t have a proper support system or anyone to check up on her to make sure she was OK.

Flores was victimized in a rich, “fast-paced” area on the outskirts of Detroit.

“I met a boy, a cute boy. It always starts like that,” she said.

Flores had known this boy for six months before he drugged and raped her after offering her a ride home from school.

“‘I like you’ — my world changed with these three words,” she said.

Flores said her rapist and sex trafficker used these words to lure her into his house. He then gave her a tour of the house and gave her a soda. Little did she know, the soda was laced with drugs.

Because Flores grew up in an Irish Catholic household, she thought that losing her virginity would make her parents disappointed in her, so she didn’t tell her parents about the assault.

“It is never OK to keep things to yourself,” she said.

Tragically, this incident was only the beginning of Flores’s trafficking. For two years, she was “delivered literally like a pizza” for her trafficker’s monetary gain. Flores said her trafficker threatened to kill her brothers if she told anyone.

The worst night, Flores recalled, was in a nasty Detroit hotel where she was violently taken by 20 men. That night, Flores passed out from the pain and horror of the experience. After surviving this, the then 16-year-old decided that her story was not going to end this way.

Sgt. Brandon Ansell, head of the Oshkosh Police Department Vice and Narcotics Unit, brought some unsettling facts to the audience prior to Flores’s presentation saying, “I’ve seen it. I’ve witnessed it. It’s real.”

Ansell said that children of any age can fall victim to human trafficking.

“They don’t really know what they’re getting into until it’s too late,” he said.

Ansell said there are many ways you can help prevent sex trafficking in our community. He pointed out that a more obvious way you can take action is by not going to strip clubs or using online pornography sites.

“Don’t utilize the services, and the commodity is less valuable,” Ansell said.

According to the anti-trafficking nonprofit Rescue:Freedom, 49% of women who were sex trafficked had pornography made of them while they were being trafficked.

Dena Williams, an advocate against human trafficking/exploitation for Reach Counseling Center in Neenah said the No. 1 thing students can do to help keep each other stay safe is, “If you see something, say something.”

“If you see something but don’t do anything about it, you may have to live with never seeing that friend ever again,” Williams said.