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February 16, 2009

It Could Not Happen to Everyone

Theresa Flores (Warning: disturbing themes)

It could happen to anyone. Really?

Last night, MSNBC aired "Sex Slaves: The Teen Trade," an exposé on the prevalence of sex trafficking in suburban America. The gist: It's not just poor girls from southeast Asia who find themselves at the mercy of violent pimps who sell girls to 10 guys a night and keep all the money for themselves--it could be your daughter. In the episode, Theresa Flores, a middle-class suburban girl, tells how she was sucked into sexual slavery as a 15-year-old high school student.

Enamored of an upperclassman named "Daniel," Theresa allows him to drive her home one day. On their way, Daniel brings her to his house, where he rapes her. The next day he blackmails her by showing her pictures his cousin has taken of the rape, informing her that she must do whatever he tells her or he will pass the photos around the school. Afraid everyone will find out and that her parents will be angry with her, Theresa agrees to come to Daniel's house that night, where she is gang raped.

This, of course, isn't enough to eliminate the blackmail, and Theresa gets sucked into a two-year nightmare of sexual slavery. And her parents don't have a clue.

After one of the worst nights she can remember, Theresa is finally rescued by the police and brought home in the dead of night. Her parents' response--shock and anger. The next day, her mother won't speak to her. "We didn't have parents we could talk to about these things," recounts Theresa's younger brother.

The family eventually moves away from the town and relocates in another suburban location.

It could happen to anybody, says Theresa, now an advocate and mother. It doesn't matter if your dad makes $100,000, drives nice cars, and provides a decent education for his children. Anyone can get sucked into sex trafficking.

I began to think about that. I grew up in suburbia. Could this have happened to me? I don't think so.

Here's why:

Yes, it is possible for anyone to be sexually victimized. Anyone can find himself or herself in the wrong place at the wrong time. Many Christian families have endured such horror, and my heart goes out to them. It is the Lord's mercy than none of the women in my family have faced this tragedy.

But this does not mean that anyone could get sucked into two years of sexual bondage. If I had come home after experiencing such a horror, I wouldn't have had to say anything for my parents to know immediately that something was horribly wrong. It might have felt terribly ashamed to tell them what had happened, but their gentle persistence would have compelled me. They would have cried with me and sought the physical, emotional, and spiritual help I would have needed to walk me to the road of healing. They would have grieved, but they would never ever have been angry with me.

Had I been approached with the threat of blackmail, I might have been terrified, but I would have told my parents right away, because I would have known they would have been my biggest advocates. They would have done anything at all to protect me.

I don't say any of this to seem callous, or to turn the righteous spotlight on myself and my family. I say all of this to say that family makes all the difference.

My heart grieves for Theresa and the darkness she walked through at such a young age. She was a victim of the men who abused her ... but, even more, of her parents' disregard. What kind of parents wouldn't notice that their 15-year-old daughter sneaked out late five nights a week? What kind of parents wouldn't notice the vivaciousness sucked out of their young beauty? What kind of parents would put the blame on their daughter? Bad ones.

Yes, it is possible for tragedy to strike any family, but it is not possible for such prolonged victimization to occur in healthy families. Parents such as Theresa's have been tried and found grievously wanting.

(Image © UCBerkeleyNews)

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Dan Gill

This scenario might not apply to every girl, but there are girls who are kidnapped and forced into slavery in this country.


Theresa Flores is a courageous lady for coming out and telling her story.

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