The FBI made a big bust this week. They worked closely with state and local law enforcement across the country and rescued 69 children, including at least one in Arizona from prostitution.
3TV has an exclusive interview with a 14-year-old who was dragged into that world. She and her parents don't want to be identified because they are scared for their safety, but want people to know this can happen to anyone.
“I think it's just hard for me to really just wake up and say, yes, this did happen and know this wasn't a dream,” the victim’s dad said.
“As a parent you want to protect them and keep them from hurt, harm and danger,” the victim’s mom said. “We were not able to do that.”
This Valley couple is sharing a story that no parent ever wants to think about, let alone talk about. Their child was forced to walk the streets as a prostitute.
“It's amazing when you actually experience something that you are normally used to seeing on the news and you go through it yourself, it opens your eyes,” the victim’s mom said.
The couple's 14-year-old daughter was going through a hard time, growing pains like so many teenagers experience but it was after she logged onto MySpace that her parents say the real-life nightmare began.
“They preyed after her and they found her under false pretenses,” the victim’s mom said. “She was expecting one thing and got another and didn't have a choice.”
Their daughter was thrown into the world of sex trafficking. According to experts more than a million children are being forced into this same dark world every year. Even more shocking, the 14-year-old's father is a police officer.
“I guess I felt kind of guilty of what I do for everyone else, but what I wasn't able to do for my own children,” the victim’s dad said.
“It makes you realize it doesn't just happen to the poor or druggie, it can happen to any family,” the victim’s mom said.
For this family, an agonizing search went on for six months. The 14-year-old was rescued just in time. Her parents believe there were plans to take her out of state, maybe out of the country.
“Do they make you dress in certain things,” 3TV Carey Pena said. “Yes,” said the victim. “Like what? Like really huge heels and short dresses and stuff. Did they force you to be with men? Yes.”
Back at home the fragile teenager sat down with us to tell her story.
“I’ve been through so many things, like I should be dead right now, but I'm still here,” the victim said.
Sex trafficking in Arizona is a much bigger problem than anyone would think said Pastor Michael Chalberg. He's one of the founder’s of a new non-profit called the Starbright Foundation. He along with Lori Reigner and other volunteers plan to dedicate their time to rescuing children.
“The first goal we talk about is rescue,” Chalberg said. “The second goal is providing safety, protection, recovery and we would love to in the near future, be supported to the point where we could establish a unique type of safe house.”
“We want to do whatever we can to help families, families like this,” Reigner said. “It doesn't just affect the victims.”
This family can't erase what has happened, but they can look to the future.
“I’m so much better than what they told me I was,” the victim said. “I'm a young lady and I need to be respected and I deserve so much more in life. I have a purpose I need to fulfill.”
Starbright Foundation Event
Friday, Nov. 12 from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. at Embassy Suites-PHX North, located at 2577 W. Greenway Road.Tickets are limited. To purchase, call (480) 664-0216 - $40 single, $75 couple, $300 table of 8. The proceeds benefit the Foundation and the AZ Fallen Officers General Fund. For more information go to Starbright Foundation.