With phone and ticket in-hand, 18-year-old Robin* raced to board her flight in search of meaning, acceptance and love.
Robin had been befriended by an older man on the internet who offered her a “better life” by distancing Robin from her parents. The man then sent her a burner phone and money for a one-way airline ticket from Tampa to another country.
Meanwhile, one of our staff members received a telephone call from a victim advocate from a domestic violence shelter. The victim advocate explained Robin’s situation and sought direction on how to intervene.
We provided the name and number of a Homeland Security agent and suggested the victim advocate call them.
With the help of several agencies, Robin was detained by Customs & Border Patrol at the airport and prohibited from boarding the plane. The victim advocate reported to Tampa and brought Robin home safely. Robin, along with her family, eventually met with our director of community relations and clinician, beginning the healing process.
Our staff spent time with Robin, learning more about the incident, and we provided education, awareness and counsel.
Robin recognized that she had been groomed and was in the process of being trafficked, but in her heart Robin didn’t want to believe it because the older man (the trafficker) said, “I love you.”
Robin had given the trafficker a copy of her passport, social security card and home address, leaving her family scared for her safety. Our staff telephoned human trafficking service providers and identified a safe home for her to stay pending the criminal investigation.
Because of our staff’s training, awareness and identification of trafficking signs, as well as key partnerships with various law enforcement agencies and community shelters, we helped intervene on Robin’s behalf to halt the heinous crime of trafficking.
Though much work needs to be done to make the trafficking industry unthinkable, we celebrate that Robin did not fall prey to the hands of evil doers who wished to exploit her for their physical and financial gain.
*Name changed for confidentiality purposes.