Victim: 'Most Of These Girls End Up Dead'
By Eric King/WLKY
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Human trafficking hit close to home after a multi-state investigation led the FBI and police to two houses in Louisville, and one local group that helps victims of human trafficking said that's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the scope of the problem.
According to the Kentucky Rescue & Restore Project, the first, and perhaps most staggering fact, is that there are more human slaves in the world today than at any other time in history. Staggering fact No. 2: It's happening in Louisville.
"Most of these girls end up dead," said Theresa Flores. "They either die in it or commit suicide."
Flores is a survivor of human trafficking. She tours the country telling her story.At 15, she was drugged and raped by a boy who went to her church and school in Detroit."A few days later, he came to me and he had an envelope full of pictures, and he said my cousins were there and they were taking pictures and they have a plan," Flores said. "They said, 'You're going to earn these pictures back, or else.'"Flores said she was blackmailed and forced to sneak out of her home nearly every night for two years."I was delivered to middle-class homes, taken down stairs to these men-only areas where there was a bedroom," she said. "I was basically locked away. And I would sit there and wait for man after man after man all night long."Flores said that she was not a prostitute, rather a victim forced into a multibillion-dollar industry.Human trafficking is the second-largest international crime, second only to drug trafficking, according to the Kentucky Rescue & Restore Project. But officials said it's the fastest-growing international crime.Marissa Castellanos works with Catholic Charities in Louisville."Sold for sex on the Internet, in local hotels, at gas stations," Castellanos said. "It's really all around us."In Kentucky alone, 57 cases of human trafficking have been identified in the last three years. Those figures come from the Kentucky Rescue & Restore Project, a group that has helped more than 114 victims, some of whom are from out of state.Human trafficking is the sale, transport and profit from human beings who are forced to work for others. It's commercial in nature, and can include sex."People are re-sellable, unlike drugs and guns. When you sell (drugs or guns), you make your money one time," Castellanos said. "But when you have a person and you are exploiting them for sex and labor, they are re-sellable."Castellanos said many trafficking victims are often categorized by law enforcement as prostitutes."The idea of considering them the victim of a crime instead of as a criminal prostitute is very difficult," she said. "And for it to be trafficking, you have to prove that they were controlled in some way." Click Here: Watch Part 2 Castellanos pointed to a case from August 2010. Arelis Bellorosa was arrested in Clark County, Ind., and charged with prostitution.Bellarosa is originally from the Dominican Republic, but took a Greyhound bus from her home in Atlanta to Clark County to find work.Her would-be employer, according to police reports, was Yosmaris Lopez.Police labeled Lopez a female pimp and charged her with promoting prostitution."They didn't pursue any human trafficking charges, because they said for whatever reason, (Bellarosa) was willing. And the idea that she came here from another state, with the belief that she was going to get some sort of job that was never given to her, and she was forced into prostitution, she was told she would be prostituting, that doesn't leave any room for choice," Castellanos said. "How does that not fit the definition of trafficking, where there were lies and deceptions to get her to come here where she'd be more vulnerable, and then she doesn't have the freedom to leave?"The charges against both women are still pending in Clark County.Lopez was a no-show for a court date six months ago and is nowhere to be found.There's a warrant out for her arrest.Castellanos said Bellarosa was likely a victim, not a prostitute."It's happening in the obvious places, in our neighborhoods, the strip clubs where girls are being forced to strip and prostitute," said Castellanos.Castellanos also said it's happening in some ethnic spas."They're being made to service anywhere between 10 to 35 men a day. They're made to sleep oftentimes in the same bed they're made to work in all day. That's where they're made to sleep at night. Who would choose that for themselves?" said Castellanos.In Indiana and Kentucky, it is not mandatory for law enforcement officers to take training courses on how to recognize potential cases of human trafficking; just one change both Castellanos and Flores would like to see."The fact is, human trafficking only exists because there is a demand for cheap labor services and commercial sex provided by sex traffickers," said Castellanos.Despite a handful of indictments in past years for human trafficking, there have been no successful prosecutions in either Kentucky or Indiana."It should be offensive to any of us that this is happening in our community," Castellanos said.One big push is for it to be mandatory for law enforcement to take training courses on spotting human trafficking. Right now, there are only a few police departments in the area that have been trained including Louisville Metro Police and Lexington police.For more on ending human sex trafficking, click here .