Human-trafficked victim finds refuge in Chattanooga and shares her story

There are several hundred thousand cases of children who have been human trafficked in the US, and one of those survivors has sought refuge in Chattanooga, receiving temporary housing from a friend and an outpouring of support from the community.

The young woman recalls the fear she felt as a victim of human trafficking, and for fear of her safety, she has asked Channel 3 not to identify her.

"I was scared like hell,” she said, “cuz’ I am like he is going to beat me up, he had cut my hair, he burnt me with a curling iron, he is going to hurt me."

She said she was only 16 years old when she was manipulated by her abuser.

She explains her mother had died, her family abandoned her, and the foster father she had molested her. “I was still a teenager, I had nobody,” she said.

So she proceeded to trust her abuser, as he pampered her first with gifts and befriended her.

"He did so much for me and no one did that for me before,” she recalled.

However, she says he began listing her on Backpages, and coercing her to engage in sexual behaviors.

“Going to different cities, staying at different hotels, and selling myself all day and then giving him the money,” she said.

Now, at 22, she is still working to overcome the mental impacts of that time in her life. “It's traumatized me later on in life,” she said.

She is one of 200,000-300,000 who have been sex trafficked as children in the US.

TBI states 94 girls are trafficked in Tennessee on an average weekend.

However, the survivor was able to find her way out thanks to her Chattanogan friend Brittany Emery.

The two met a few years ago, in a nearby city.

"That cause being to show someone love,” said Emery with tears welling up in her eyes.

Emery has set up a FB group to help her start all over in a new city.

"I received hundreds of messages and people setting up time to drop donations on my porch,” she said. "It's been so moving to me that complete strangers would reach out.”

Organizations like the 7th Well have also helped her.

“Restored from the past and have self-worth for the future, and that is our goal,” said Tess Brandon the Executive Director for 7th Well.

“I am grateful for it,” said the survivor, “because it is help with nothing behind it."

If you would like to help the survivor find housing or donate to her you can go to M’s Army Facebook Group online.

Also, if you or anyone you know has been human trafficked and needs help, TBI’s Tennessee Human Trafficking hotline is open to anyone who needs help on this topic at 855-558-6484.

You can find more information the 7th Well website.