When FBI agents conducted Operation Cross Country X last week and rescued a White Plains teen from sex trafficking , they were also saving her from a brutal life of unimaginable degradation.
"A lot of these teens and children are picked up right outside their schools, just steps away from the front door," said FBI Special Agent in Charge Michael Osborn.
All of the teens taken have one thing in common, they come from broken or stressed homes and they are promised a better life with money, clothes and more, he added.
Instead, the first thing that often happens is the girl is branded at a local tattoo parlor with the pimp's name or sign, Osborn said.
"That's to let other pimps and sex traffickers know that she is taken," Osborn said.
What follows is a horrible life of being "broken in," so they know what to offer customers, beatings, forced drug use and being starved until they perform.
"Often they will be told you make a $1,000 at this truck stop and you will get money for food," he said.
The amount is often as little as $2 or less.
If they refuse to perform or don't make enough money they are beaten and locked up. If they cry, they are beaten again.
The victims begin to believe that they are unworthy of help and often settle into the life or become addicted to drugs and submit to keep the drugs coming, he said.
And, sometimes, it's a life they have been brought up in.
"You might find three generations in the sex trafficking business where that's all the young girl knows because her mother and grandmother were brought up that way," he said.
But if they are saved, there is a way out and plenty of help available, he added.
The FBI makes sure the victims are provided state protective services and victim assistance. Depending on the level of need, a law enforcement officer and, if available, an FBI victim specialist accompany the survivor to obtain these services.
Osborn said he has had a girl tell him she wasn't good enough to receive the help and went back to the life. She came back to him six months later and asked for the help and it was provided.
"She said she was unworthy of the help," he added. "Many are broken down and have self-esteem problems after their experience."
Osborn said the FBI works each day to rescue girls and to try and prevent it from happening in the first place through training, investigations and by working with local agencies.
The program to rescue girls from human trafficking, part of the FBI’s Innocence Lost Initiative, began in 2003. Since its inception, there have been more than 6,100 child rescues nationwide. This year, the program expanded to include countries outside of the United States.
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