By Senior Correspondent Desirée Taylor
Two victims of human sex trafficking shared their personal stories of horror and survival at a summit examining this issue in Trenton.
“While I was being trafficked on the streets of New York, I experienced everything you can imagine and more. I was raped more times than I can remember,” said Barbara.
“They took me to ct, 24 hours working as a sex slave. I can’t count how many customers I had every day,” said Shandra.
Both women say they didn’t realize at the time that they were victims of human trafficking and with New Jersey hosting the Super Bowl — one of the major sporting events that experts say attracts sex traffickers according to the Coalition of Human Trafficking — they want to raise awareness.
“I didn’t deserve to be a victim. And I believe no one deserves it,” said Shandra.
Sen. Jeff Chiesa agrees. That’s why he made it his mission during his time in Washington and when he formerly served as New Jersey’s attorney general to address human trafficking.
“The reaction you get when you tell people there are more slaves worldwide than during Civil War is a stark one. People can’t believe it,” Chiesa said.
“We know that human trafficking takes place in NJ. We know that detecting this type of crime and investigating it and prosecuting it is extremely difficult. But the fact that it is difficult, should not and will not dissuade us,” Acting Attorney General John Hoffman said.
Law enforcement officials say it’s difficult to pinpoint the exact number of victims in New Jersey, but the state attorney general’s office says it has identified 195 victims since 2006. Most were adult women and most were victims of sex trafficking.
“Human trafficking is something we see in Atlantic City, see it small towns, Newark,” said Cristal Solorio of the Polaris Project. “And we see victims being young girls and boys that are from New Jersey that were born and raised and rescued in New Jersey. So it doesn’t happen to just foreign nationals, but it happens to Jersey young girls and boys.”
Advocates say they need more resources for transitional housing and a host of social services to help victims. New Jersey has enacted tougher laws to try to crack down on human traffickers. And with the Super Bowl coming to New Jersey in a few months, law enforcement are keeping a watchful eye for these criminals.