We Got Her! She’s Safe!
“We got her! She’s safe!” I was holding my breath as I heard those words on the other end of the phone! My heart was beating so fast!
She was only 14-years-old when she agreed to meet face-to-face with the 14-year-old boy she had met online. What a NICE guy, she had grown to like him after their many online “talks.”
Telling no one, she left to meet him at a park in the town. The 14-year-old boy turned out to be a man who dealt in human trafficking. She was kidnapped – TAKEN to a larger city!
Her mother frantic and not knowing what had happened contacted local law enforcement. It soon became apparent through the communication discovered on the girl’s computer that she “voluntarily” went to the park. Runaway was listed on the police records.
After a period of time law enforcement services were no longer provided to find the woman’s daughter. This was not unusual due to the large number of runaways in the U.S. and law enforcement’s limited amount of manpower.
The single mom frustrated and overwhelmed called our private investigator, a service we provide without cost, to see if we would help. We agreed to take on her case.
Even as we were working on the case, the mother made a common mistake – she went to the streets of the city to try to find her daughter. We understood that she was distraught and blaming herself, nevertheless, we had to deter her from looking for her daughter. Why? So that the detectives, who were working with the authorities, could do their job without mom “blowing it out of the water.”
Believing her daughter to be gone for good or dead, the mother contemplated taking her own life. I tried to contact her, praying for the right words to say. I left numerous messages on her answering machine and cell phone. I told her that she was a good mom, this was not her fault, and that I was praying for her and her daughter. I encouraged her to not give up hope.
That night her daughter was rescued!
Thanks to the hours and hours of our team working along side of law enforcement, we located her. The policemen literally broke down the door to where she was being held. The traffickers had shaved her head, completely changed her appearance, drugged, beat, raped and sold her body on line and on the street. She was helpless, celebrating her birthday in captivity.
The daughter and mother were whisked away to special care and protection with only the clothes on their back. The trafficker had got away.
Even in the midst of her ordeal, the mother sent word of “Special Thanks” to me for making all those supportive phone calls that night!
TAKE ACTION: The story of this teenage girl has been played out over and over again, because of our children’s vulnerability. Our youth often believe that everyone who are on their social media friends’ lists are actually their friends. This belief makes them susceptible to being lured by a nefarious adult to a dangerous meeting. As adults we can take action to try to prevent this by:
- Teaching our children not to chat with or accept as a friend anyone that they don’t know.
- Discussing the dangers of going and meeting with someone they have met online.
- Making sure all privacy settings are set on ALL electronic devices,
- Monitoring our children’s Internet use and the apps they have on their phone (7 Dangerous Apps parents should know about for their kids), and
- Teaching them why it is important to tell you about any sexual or suspicious activity that occurs online, and then as a parent reporting it to law enforcement (Cyber Tip Line).
Saundra Lawson is the Founder and Executive Director of Project Liberty, a nonprofit investigative human trafficking task force and victim assistance/support team based out of Mid-Michigan, which primarily serves victims in America.