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Teens at Risk of Human Trafficking
Chosen, a documentary about human trafficking by Shared Hope, “tells the shockingly true story of two ‘All-American’ teenage girls tricked into trafficking. Eighteen-year-old Brianna was an honor-roll student, cheerleader and worked at a local café. Thirteen-year-old Lacy was an active member of her youth group, and a volunteer in her community. Both were manipulated. Both were exploited. Both were chosen.”
After school Brianna waitressed at a diner in her small Washington state town. Richard, a man in his mid-40s, and a woman he introduced as his wife often came in and engaged Brianna in conversation. Richard asked her about her life (she was the youngest daughter of five kids in a loving middle-class home), her birthday (she would turn 18 in a couple of weeks), her dreams for school and work (to go to college in Seattle), and the kinds of boyfriends she liked the most (handsome blond athletes). Brianna thought he was merely being friendly, but as the weeks to come would reveal, the seemingly innocuous customer was actually a veteran sex trafficker mining the young student for vital information he would use to try to lure her into a world of strip clubs and prostitution.
A few weeks after that, when Brianna had just turned 18, the man of her dreams appeared in the diner. Nick was a gorgeous blond football player dressed in Gucci, designer denim, and an expensive watch. “I noticed him right away,” Brianna says. “He flirted with me and made me feel so special and beautiful. I’ve never been talked to like that. When I told him I liked his watch, he said, ‘I’d like to buy you one to match.’ ”
Nick invited her to visit him in Seattle, and when she saw his chromed-out Mercedes and stately Victorian house, she felt she had wandered into a dream. When her family adamantly told her she could not spend the night with him, he told her to break her ties with them and move into his spare room. He also suggested she could attend college while doing a little work on the side. Why not try dancing in a club?, Nick asked, adding that his former girlfriend did that and made “tons of money doing little work.”
Sensing her potential, Nick offered to take her on a trip to Arizona and Nevada, where Brianna most likely would have been completely cut off from her friends and family and disappeared into forced prostitution.
Still excited by her new-found freedom, Brianna wanted to stay but she had to return her family’s car. She told Nick and arranged a ride back to Seattle with a trusted high school friend. That friend, Evan, sensing a dangerous situation, alerted Brianna’s parents. They then met their daughter, along with former Congresswoman Linda Smith, at Evan’s house. Brianna refused to believe that Nick was setting her up, until Smith, founder and president of the national anti-trafficking organization Shared Hope, took her to a cafe and talked to her about the patterns and come-on lines of sex traffickers. In Smith’s discussion, Brianna recognized every line Nick had said to her.