Human trafficking is a multi-billion dollar business at the expense of children and vulnerable young women and men.
But how can you really tell if the person right in front of you is a victim? And how can you get them the help they need?
It’s a dark world of sex, money and drugs.
Human trafficking is often referred to these days as the modern-day slavery.
“I remember being held at gunpoint for a whole hour being raped couldn't making noise and he was just having any way with me. It hurt,” one victim told us. “The drug dealers always told me ‘hey you always have a bed to lay in as long as you have money’.”
We aren’t identifying this sex-trafficking survivor out concern for her safety.
“When you do get raped you have to brush it off and keep going, cause that's how you make your money,” she told us.
This survivor who is still very emotionally and physically fragile, says she got away from her pimp about a year ago, after being trafficked on the streets of Detroit for more than a decade.
“I had gotten pregnant through my addiction. I had to adopt out a baby,” she says. “I didn’t know who the father was.”
Still she says, she continued to sell her body for drugs, money and her pimp.
“Being on drugs you just want to get that next dollar to feed your addiction,” she says.
But she had a wake up call.
“Pretty scary down there,” she says. “Not knowing where you're going to get your next meal or where you're going to lay your head down. Who's going to protect you and who's not.”
Now, she’s trying to get back on her feet, but it’s been tough – as it is for many young women trying to get out of the game.
“One of our avenues that we really take pride in is our life skills.,” says Vice President of Treatment Programs at Vista Maria Meredith Reese.
Reese helps run treatment programs at Vista Maria – a place that provides hope, healing and housing for those who suffer from abuse, neglect and trauma.
“Often times the girls are chronic runaways or homeless,” Reese tells us. “They're on the streets.”
They’re newest program, WINGS - focuses on helping young human trafficking victims mentally and physically. They provide drug rehab and give them the tools they need for reintegration back into the community.
Many times, the girls, who go to Vista Maria are trying to get away from their pimps.
“Traffickers will go to any length necessary to find that child because that child is considered to be their property,” says Reese.
That’s why we can’t disclose any of their locations in metro-Detroit. But we can take you inside a few of them.
At their campuses, young women can also earn their high school diplomas and learn a trade.
In 2015, 99% of the girls remained drug-free, 85% showed improvement in family functionality and 87% improved in school.
“We are 24/7,” Reese says. “So whether its on midnights, dayshift they have someone to reach out to.”
Counselors say the signs of sex trafficking are there.
“It could be recurring emergency room visits because of the nature of the physical beatings,” Reese says. “Young ladies who didn’t have much valuables, now sporting those new things. They skip school and then come back, with a different person they come back with.”
The survivor we spoke to says her traffickers enticed her with drugs and money and she considered them family – since she grew up without one.
But the beatings and possessiveness worsened every day.
“You're not supposed to be affiliated with anyone else down there,” she told us. “If you’re his, you’re his.”
As destiny tries to get her life together these days, she has some advice for girls tempted to take the road she once did.
“Turn the other way and run as fast as you can,” she says. “Run like hell.”
If you know someone who may be a victim of sex trafficking and needs help, contact the National Human Trafficking Resource Center.
And if you are a victim, remember Vista Maria wants to help you too.