Ohio native was victim of human trafficking

Aaron Krause • Oct 29, 2015 at 12:13 PM

A therapist once asked Theresa Flores to define "love."

Her reply "I don't know what that is."

She has since formed a definition. When you love someone, you can depend on them.

About 22 years ago, at age 15, Flores thought she could depend on the boy who offered her a ride home from school in a black Trans Am.

She accepted and off the pair went. But first, he had to stop by his house.

The boy asked Flores to follow him in and that's when roughly two years of unspeakable torture began.

Flores, an Ohio native and licensed social worker, recounted her story this week to professionals at EHOVE GHRIST Adult Career. She spoke as part of a day-long program called "Identifying and Assisting Victims of Human Trafficking: Information for the Helping Professional."

The event had several purposes, including defining human trafficking and how and where it happens.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, human trafficking is a "modern-day form of slavery."

Victims are subjected to force, fraud or coercion for the purpose of sexual exploitation or forced labor.

According to a University of Pennsylvania study, around 250,000 to 300,000 American children are at risk of being sexually exploited, which can lead to the act of actual human trafficking.

It happened to Flores right in her hometown in suburban Detroit.

Flores entered her "escort's" house.

No one was home except for some of his older cousins.

The guy who was supposedly taking Flores home raped her, while the others snapped pictures.

A couple days later, they showed her the photos. If she didn't comply with their orders, they would show the pictures to her parents and post them around church. She had to "earn" the pictures back.

Flores didn't dare tell anyone what happened. Her attackers told her if she told anyone, they'd kill her.

So her parents were not aware who was calling their daughter in the middle of the night.

It was the boy and his cousins. Flores had to sneak out of her home and proceed to a spot behind the house.

There, in her pajamas, she waited for the black Trans Am to take her to the basement of various upscale, expensive homes.

Young men would come and go, speak to each other in Arabic, sexually molest and torture Flores.

Fear and panic gripped her.

"There were many times I passed out," she said.

No matter how loud she screamed, nobody heard her.

Flores' story has a happy ending. She was able to escape her traffickers, certain death and a life of servitude.

Not only did she escape, she finished her senior year of high school, attended college and obtained a bachelor degree in social work from Ball State University. She also received a master's in counseling and is a single mother raising three children.

But although Flores may be well past her terrifying ordeal, the experience is still with her.

"There's life-long healing when you've gone through this," she said.

Flores has nightmares.

She has flashbacks, even when she's speaking to a group. One time someone tried to affix a microphone to her shirt so she the audience could hear her. Flores flinched because the experience reminded her of an attacker grabbing her shirt.

Other flashbacks make her re-live the nights she had to close her door ever so slowly so her parents wouldn't hear, sneak outside in her pajamas and wait for her traffickers.

Flores said nobody, including counselors, wanted to hear about her experience. It was too "big" and "messy," they'd say.

So, what's the answer?

"We need to get angry about it, we need to have awareness, we need to make changes," Flores said. "Slavery is not God's will."

Flores is trying to spread the awareness of human trafficking. She has spoken to hundreds of high school students and is the author of "The Sacred Bath: An American Teen's Story of Modern Day Slavery."

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