A 22-year-old woman has been moved to safety after being forced into prostitution by a human trafficker who posed as her boyfriend.
Richard Schoeberl, U.S. Investigations Team Leader at Hope for Justice, said: “We located the survivor in an area that is known for high crime, heroin dealing, prostitution and violent activity. The missing woman and her boyfriend were located outside a motel.”
Kathryn* was first reported as missing from her home a few weeks ago, sparking a police investigation. Hope for Justice’s team of investigators based in Nashville, Tennessee, joined the search in response to an appeal by a sheriff’s department.
Our team contacted Kathryn’s family, who were concerned for her welfare. Relatives asked Hope for Justice to assist in locating the missing woman and her boyfriend, who was believed to be with her. Family members provided information that enabled us to locate Kathryn within one week. By this time, she had been missing for one month.
We conducted database and social media searches as well as continuous surveillance, which revealed that Kathryn was being forced into prostitution by her ‘boyfriend’. We also found that her perpetrator was coercing her through the use of drugs, supplying these and causing Kathryn to develop a dependency. He in turn sexually exploited her by forcing her to service male customers.
The 2017 Federal Human Trafficking Report explains the harmful effects of this kind of coercion: “As a method to perpetuate the cycle of victimization, the trafficker retains power, providing just enough of the drug to keep the person from experiencing withdrawal and to coerce them into commercial sex.”
On gathering evidence, Hope for Justice shared investigative details with law enforcement and a police human trafficking unit who arrived on the scene to assist.
Richard Schoeberl continued: “We informed the survivor’s relatives that she had been found. The family were very appreciative and told us they had been worried that the young woman might be dead in the motel from using drugs.”
Hope for Justice is working with law enforcement to secure justice for Kathryn and to provide evidence for the arrest of her perpetrator.
Kathryn was placed in rehabilitation for ongoing aftercare but due to her drug addiction has since relapsed. Our team is in regular contact with both the survivor and her family and we are doing all that we can to keep her safe.
*Name and image changed to protect identity of the survivor
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