Survivor and author Theresa Flores shares her story of trafficking and sexual slavery while growing up outside Detroit, Michigan, in a loving, upper middle class home. Theresa’s struggle resulted in 2013 legislation in the state of Michigan entitled the Theresa Flores Act, currently under review. Her work has raised awareness and rescues across the nation. The Dream Team thanks her for sharing her experience with our community. Here is her story.
Many years ago I wrote a letter to Geraldo Rivera and Oprah asking for help. The Post Traumatic Stress Disorder I had developed had gotten very bad and I no longer knew how to heal from what had happened to me. But I never received a response. You see, I didn’t know what to call what I had experienced. Even though I had come from a good family and lived in the suburbs, I had been a vulnerable youth.
At 15 years old, I was targeted by a group of men, developed a crush on one of them, and was groomed for their purposes.
This man then drugged and raped me, and then blackmailed me with photos of the incident. For two years, I was made to service men. Not one man ever asked how old I was or why I was there. Even the families who lived upstairs while this went on never came down to find out why a girl was screaming.
I never considered myself a prostitute. I was missing and no one knew it.
Years later, a detective from Oakland, California, an expert in human trafficking, told me that this is still a common way that pimps (traffickers) catch their prey.
If a man has sex with a 14-year-old, it is child molestation or rape and he has to register as a child predator. But if that same man has sex with a 14-year-old and gives her money for it, she is a child prostitute and can be prosecuted and jailed, while the man involved gets away with it relatively easily.
I travel the world sharing my story and repeatedly hear, from women of all ages, “my story is just like yours.”
I realized there are a lot of “Theresas” out there so I created S.O.A.P. (Save Our Adolescents from Prostitution) to rescue missing children being trafficked. We gather volunteers to put labels with the National Human Trafficking Hotline number on bars of soap and then distribute them free of charge to motels. We also give these establishments missing children posters and ask if they recognize any of the children. These tips have led to many rescues. Phone calls to the hotline double when we are doing our outreach campaigns.
Human trafficking is an epidemic in every country, state and community. Through awareness and education of modern day slavery, we truly can improve the lives of women and girls everywhere.
Theresa Flores is a survivor. As a 15-year-old girl in a well-to-do, predominately white suburban neighborhood, Theresa survived two years of living hell being trafficked as a “reward” to 20- and 30-year old men involved in a criminal ring.
An avid track runner with an all-American girl look and an older sister to three brothers, no one – not even her parents – knew she was being trafficked for sex.
Twenty years later, Theresa is speaking out on the reality of human trafficking in the U.S. She is the author of The Slave Across the Street, a USA Today and Wall Street Journal best seller. The Sacred Bath, her international new book, a top seller on theUK’s The Sunday Times list, offers a look into her escape from her traffickers and her struggle to heal.
Theresa has been invited as a guest on The Today Show, The 700 Club, and MSNBC’sSex Slaves – The Teen Trade. She has also been featured on Nightline, America’s Most Wanted and For the Record as a sex slave survivor.
Theresa has been a licensed social worker for more than 20 years. She received her master’s degree in counseling education from the University of Dayton and a bachelor’s degree in Social Work from Ball State University. She is also a 2010 winner of the Soroptimist Ruby Award.