KSPR Special Report: Sex trafficking in the Ozarks

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KSPR) -- For the first time, a human trafficking survivor is speaking out. She said children are being held captive right now and it is happening right here in Springfield.

"I want people to know this is real and it happens in our town and it happens every day," said human trafficking survivor, Jane.

In a KSPR News exclusive, this woman is telling us her horror story of being help captive for months, what happened, how she got out, and how you can protect your children and your neighborhood from the sex slave rings right in our backyard.

It was in a North Springfield house where this woman said she was held for months and an alley like this where she was raped. She wants you to know it is happening in North Springfield and how to protect your family.

"For the first two weeks I really didn't know what was going on and then when I tried to get out the backdoor it was padlocked from the outside," Jane stated.

For her own protection, KSPR News is hiding this human trafficking survivor's identity and calling her "Jane".

"I was raped outside of the house, in the alleyway and beat with sticks," Jane said.

Jane was not sold into slavery, but instead dropped on the human traffickers' doorstep in North Springfield … by her own sister.

“I don't honestly know that my family knew what was going on,” Jane stated. “I hope and pray that they didn't."

“She said knock on that door and the people there would help you. I was scared. I went into the house not knowing what I was getting myself into or who I was meeting," Jane said.

The help her sister promised was really someone with drugs. Jane was so high at first she didn't realize she'd walked into a trap.

"For the first two weeks I really didn't know what was going on and then when I tried to get out the backdoor it was padlocked from the outside," continued Jane.

She then started to look for a way out.

"Then men started walking in going down to the basement. All of them were carrying shotguns and guns and I was terrified," Jane stated.

One day she crept into the basement and discovered just how horrific her captors truly were.

"I went down there and there was two girls, probably not older than 16, chained to the wall from the pipes on mattresses. Sniffs. Under sheets and it was cold,” Jane stated. “I was found down there and I was hit in the head with the back of a sawed off AR 15 and when I came to I came to with the tip of the gun in my mouth and he told me 'I have two choices: you can help these girls get ready for their next job or you can take a bullet'."

Jane said she did not want to die.

"I'm not proud of any of it," Jane continued.

She became a caretaker of sorts to the trapped teens.

"These girls weren't allowed to leave the room. They were using the bathroom in buckets and I would dump the buckets. I brought clean buckets down to them and cleaned them up, lotioned their bodies, brushed their hair, put a little bit of lip gloss on them," Jane said.

Every single night was a nightmare and it only got worse.

"One of the girls disappeared and on the news it came up she was a runaway and no one could find her. I know her jacket was found in a dumpster," stated Jane. "I think she was dying and they got rid of her the easiest way they could."

Special agents with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (or ICE) said Jane's story is not unusual for the Ozarks.

"Mostly in southwest Missouri we see sex trafficking. We have groups of people that kind of have a nomadic model. They come into an area two or three days, send out solicitations on social media, and get their johns to show up," ICE Assistant Special Agent in Charge, Gilbert Trill.

Trill is the Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the Kansas City ICE Office said the traffickers move around to avoid the law and keep the girls confused so they cannot get away.

"They travel from Springfield to Kansas City, Oklahoma, Wichita, they bounce around,” Trill said. “One group we were looking at was here in Kansas City, they were down in Springfield, then they were over in Washington State."

"Missourian children are being taken left and right easily because all they gotta do is jump on the highway, go 90 to nothing and then they're gone,” Jane said.

Even the house where Jane was is now empty.

"I recently found out through a friend that that house has been wiped out. No one lives there. Nothing is there," Jane said.

The youngest sex slave agents found was nine-years-old.
"Sex trafficking you're basically turning this individual into a modern day slave,” Trill said. “At that point I think you've pretty much given up your humanity if you can do that."

That is why ICE agents are now trying to change the way they and local law enforcement approach this crime.

"Ee try to advertise at truck stops, things like that, and show that we are not targeting the actual sex actor. We're more looking at the pimps and those controlling them," Trill said.

They are also looking at what happens when they break-up a large human trafficking operation and take them down to the ICE office.

Reporter Stephanie Garland went to visit one of the many interviewing and processing areas in Kansas City and recently they renovated it so they could separate the prostitutes from the pimps.

They are hoping that now by separating them instead of keeping them together in one room - the pimps do not have time to threaten the sex slaves into keeping quiet.

Agents said it is important to know what your children are doing.

"Pay attention to your children because if you don't pay attention to your children, I know people that will," said ICE Supervisory Special Agent, Mark Fox.

For Jane, she is just thankful that someone left their phone behind in that North Springfield house. It saved her life.

"I was scared. I knew in less than 30 minutes these people would be back. I had one chance. I don't know why I didn't call 911. They would've killed us if they heard the cops there. But all I could think was I have one phone call, make the right call, make the right call," Jane said.

That call was to a stranger, who called a shelter to get her help.

"In less than 20 minutes, someone was there to get me and I kicked that door so hard the lock finally busted it and I ran," finished Jane.

How do you make sure human trafficking is not happening in your neighborhood? Pay attention, talk to your neighbors, what to watch for, someone who is fearful and seems anxious, seems depressed or has unexplained bruises or cuts, and one sure sign if they appear to be in a relationship with someone who is very dominating or controlling.

This does not just happen in houses either. Federal agents tell us human traffickers are often found in massage parlors, truck stops, hotels and motels.

If you or someone you know might be involved in human trafficking there are ways to get help.
If you do not want anyone to know you are looking for help, instead of Googling information just go to Facebook, like you probably do many times a day. On the KSPR News page – we've put the link to everything you need.
We have the national human trafficking hotline number 1-888-373-7888. Or text HELP to: BeFree (233733). here we also list the red flags so you will know if someone is being trafficked, we even list the questions you should ask them so they will get help… and how to know if it's happening in your neighborhood.

WEBSITE: https://polarisproject.org/recognize-signs
Are you or someone you know being trafficked? Is human trafficking happening in your community? Recognizing potential red flags and knowing the indicators of human trafficking is a key step in identifying more victims and helping them find the assistance they need.
To request help or report suspected human trafficking, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888. Or text HELP to: BeFree (233733).
Common Work and Living Conditions: The individual(s) in question
Is not free to leave or come and go as he/she wishes
Is under 18 and is providing commercial sex acts
Is in the commercial sex industry and has a pimp / manager
Is unpaid, paid very little, or paid only through tips
Works excessively long and/or unusual hours
Is not allowed breaks or suffers under unusual restrictions at work
Owes a large debt and is unable to pay it off
Was recruited through false promises concerning the nature and conditions of his/her work
High security measures exist in the work and/or living locations (e.g. opaque windows, boarded up windows, bars on windows, barbed wire, security cameras, etc.)
Poor Mental Health or Abnormal Behavior
Is fearful, anxious, depressed, submissive, tense, or nervous/paranoid
Exhibits unusually fearful or anxious behavior after bringing up law enforcement
Avoids eye contact
Poor Physical Health
Lacks health care
Appears malnourished
Shows signs of physical and/or sexual abuse, physical restraint, confinement, or torture
Lack of Control
Has few or no personal possessions
Is not in control of his/her own money, no financial records, or bank account
Is not in control of his/her own identification documents (ID or passport)
Is not allowed or able to speak for themselves (a third party may insist on being present and/or translating)
Claims of just visiting and inability to clarify where he/she is staying/address
Lack of knowledge of whereabouts and/or do not know what city he/she is in
Loss of sense of time
Has numerous inconsistencies in his/her story
This list is not exhaustive and represents only a selection of possible indicators. Also, the red flags in this list may not be present in all trafficking cases and are not cumulative. Learn more at www.humantraffickinghotline.org.

Another one:
As a service provider, you may have an opportunity to identify and assist a victim of human trafficking. These are some red flags:
§ Seems anxious, fearful or paranoid. Avoids eye contact.
§ Tearfulness or signs of depression.
§ Unexplained bruises or cuts or other signs of physical abuse.
§ Appears to be in a relationship with someone who is dominating.
§ Never is alone and/or always has someone translating or answering questions on their behalf.
§ Not in control of their own finances.
§ Presents with secrecy or unable to answer questions about where they live.
§ Inconsistent details when telling their story.
§ Has no identification such as a license, passport or other ID documents.
§ Inability to leave their job or residence. Says they cannot schedule appointments.
§ Being a recent arrival to the United States and does not speak English.
§ Is under 18 and providing commercial sex acts. Or at any age unwillingly providing commercial sex acts.
§ Is afraid of law enforcement or receiving help from an outside entity.
If you can find an opportunity to get he/she alone, ask him/her the following screening questions:
§ Can you leave your job or house when you want?
§ Where did you get those bruises or is anyone hurting you?
§ Do you get paid for your employment? Is it fair? How many hours do you work?
§ (If foreign national) How did you get to the U.S. and is it what you expected? Are you being forced to do anything you don't want to do?
§ Are you or your family being threatened?
§ Do you live with or near your employer? Does your employer provide you housing? Are there locks on doors or windows from outside?
§ Do you owe debt to anyone?
If you suspect they are a victim of human trafficking,take the following actions:
§ Ask the person if you can help them find a safe place to go immediately.
§ If they need time, create an action plan with them to get to a safe place when they are ready.
§ Call and make a report to the human trafficking hotline at 1.888.3737.888. The hotline has language capabilities, so any individual can call directly if they choose.