Why it's hard to free yourself from human trafficking

Posted at 10:48 PM, Feb 22, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-22 23:29:13-05

Telisia Espinosa was sold for sex in 15 different states, and 21 different cities, including Ft. Lauderdale and Miami.

“I had to, at times, sleep with 60 men a night,” she said.

“60?” I asked, making sure I heard her right. “60,” she confirmed.

“I was arrested a lot. I was arrested all over the United States.”

Her path to prostitution started at a young age.

“I was sexually abused by three different men by the age of nine so my look on love was distorted from such a young age,” she said.

One of her goals was to travel. When she was 20, she met her eventual pimp. She says he spent months simply getting to know her, and then brought her on a road trip.

"I loved him, and I thought that he loved me, and it wasn’t that at all."

In Cleveland, they stopped at a motel. He gave her a scant outfit and told her the instructions.

“I did exactly what he told me to do because I was afraid that if I didn’t that something bad would happen to me,” she said,

He deemed her first night a success after she handed over her earnings.

“His next words to me was ‘I’m proud of you.’ And I had never heard of a man tell me he was proud of me,” she said.

The next four and a half years, she worked on a daily quota between $500-$1000. Her only day off every year was Christmas.

“There’s a fear factor, there’s the brainwashing factor, there’s the threat factor,” she said.

News of this week’s bust brought her hope.

“A sting like this, a bust like this, it gets the attention of people,” she said.

Today she travels, but on her terms. She’s an advisor for police and speaks nationally with locally founded Catch the Wave of Hope, an anti-human trafficking organization.

“Our own children right here in America are now at risk in our communities,” said Lynne Barletta, founder of Catch the Wave of Hope. “There are children being targeting by traffickers constantly.”

One day in 2001, Telisia decided enough was enough. So, she told her pimp.

He told her he got “more girls for me leaving. It was that simple for him. He was showing me oh well you want to leave I can replace you.”

Telisia was bedridden for a year after she got out. The PTSD from the trauma would cause frequent panic attacks.

To report human trafficking call their hotline: 1 (888) 373-7888 or via text: 233733 (Text the message "HELP" or "INFO").