Peggy Sue: First player is going to be the trafficker. So that’s the man that talked to you, that you met when you were getting on that bus. What he does is exactly what you are describing. He comes up, he’s real friendly, he kind of takes you off guard. They do that with children, with young girls. And the girls are completely unaware that they’re being groomed.
The second player is the girl. Usually it’s girls, 75% are girls. There are boys that are trafficked as well. But 75% are female.
And then the third player, and I think this is the key to getting trafficking stopped, the third player is what we call the john. And that’s the guy who goes in and pays money to actually have sex acts with these girls.
If there is no demand, then we don’t need a supply. So I would love to see that if we could come and have incredibly nasty laws for the johns, so that those guys will go you know what, it is not worth it. It is so not worth it, I am not even going to go, I am not even going to go do this, then they could have girls available but if nobody came, nobody was available for the supply, if there was no demand, then there would be no reason for a supply.
Cynthia: Now, can you give you some explanation as to why this person did not continue to approach me? I mean, I was suspicious, very suspicious. But still, I would have expected him to keep trying.
: They look for somebody who’s very weak, somebody who’s vulnerable. And I’ll tell you, here’s the thing that’s very valuable about getting the book The Slave Across The Street, and of course this is available on Amazon. You just click on there, there’s the book. You can go to my website, www.peggysuewells.com
and you’ll find The Slave Across The Street there. You click on it, it’ll take you right to Amazon to the website. And you want to pick up The Slave Across The Street.
It is the true story of Theresa Flores, who was an upscale Detroit teenager, and for two years she was caught up in sex trafficking. She was a girl that had been moved every two years due to her father’s employment. So when she comes into this new area she’s wanting to fit in, she feels a little bit nervous, and what is she going to do in this new c
ulture where everybody else knows each other and she doesn’t. And she’s a teenager and she’s hoping to be able to make friends, and maybe to have a guy think she’s cute, and that sort of thing.
She wasn’t getting a lot of attention at home. She had very busy parents and that sort of thing. And so what they do is they test the waters, and they are looking for girls that are hungry, girls that are needy, girls that are that type of vulnerability. Somebody who’s confident, somebody who’s going to stand up for themselves, somebody who’s going to move away again, they’re not going to go there.
Runaways are incredibly vulnerable for this type of situation. But the girls that are trafficked are very vulnerable. They’re not confident girls. They’re people that have a need, and these guys find that need. They just go to it, they just zero in on it like a target, and they sense it and they go.
Cynthia: I’m sure I’m not easy to trip. So maybe they saw that in my face. I don’t know.
Peggy Sue: Absolutely.
Cynthia: So what does it look like? How common is this?
Peggy Sue: It’s common. I lived in South Carolina for awhile and on Hilton Head Island we stared the Low Country Coalition Against Human Trafficking. So thrilled with the people that got together and said we want to do something about this. So they networked and pulled together all of the resources from the police to the FBI, to all the other para-church groups, the churches themselves, got together with the schools. Anybody that had an interest and said you know, we’re going to gather together and then we’re going to educate the community and we’re going to do what we can.
So as they educated the community as to what to look for, here’s what happened. There was one young man who does pest control, and so he went out to fumigate around a restaurant out there. And off to the side of the restaurant, back behind the restaurant, there was this little shed, and there was all these people crammed in there. And he went whoa, that’s a lot. So he went back and he told his mom. He’s like Mom, I was at work today, I had the weirdest thing that I saw. And she’s like you know what? I know what that is.
So she was able to get in touch with one of the police officers that works specifically with our group. They went out there, and sure enough, this was where they were holding these people that were being trafficked and they also had them working through the restaurant.
We had another one where it was an Asian restaurant, and again, these were people that were in the group and they were noticing that when they would try to have a conversation with these little waitresses in this Asian restaurant, the girls would not meet their eyes. They would not have a conversation. They would not speak with them. They seemed very scared, they seemed very cowered.
And so they kind of started glancing around, and over by the kitchen door where you go from the dining room into the kitchen, one of the workers, a guy, was standing there. And he had a bag of ice and he just kind of kept pounding it into his hand, the palm of his hand. So she said you know what, that’s not okay. So again, she let our authorities know. She said this is odd, I just want to let you know. Not trying to be weird, but you might want to check it out.
So sure enough, they went in, and then they’re very calm about it. They don’t suspect everybody. But they went in and they said yup, that’s exactly what was going on. What they were using to control these girls would they would beat them with bags of ice. So for this guy to stand there like that, he was letting them know don’t say anything to anybody because I’m watching you. So they were able to rescue those girls as well.
And then we had this wonderful lady in the northern area, little older lady, and same thing. She’s not a tattletale at all, but she noticed some people had moved in across the street from her and they had a little girl. She watched and she was so excited, there’d be a little girl, maybe she could make cookies for her and all that. Several weeks went by and this little girl never came out to play, she didn’t go to school, but there were all these cars that kept coming and parking and then they’d leave. And they’d come and they’d park, and then they’d leave. And there were all these strangers and they’d come and go, and come and go.
So she did the same thing. She called the local police and she said you know, I don’t tattle on my neighbors, I’m not one who spies on them. But she said you know, I just have this funny feeling about what’s going on. It seems odd to me. So they did, they checked it out, and sure enough this little girl was being trafficked. So they were able to step in.
Cynthia: So they had captured a little girl, using this little girl for people to have sex with. Correct?
Peggy Sue: Correct. That is correct.
Cynthia: That’s despicable.
Peggy Sue: It absolutely is. So that’s why we can look in our own area, and once we start being aware of what to look for. Another gal was getting her nails done at a place and she asked to use the restroom, and they were a little snippy about her using the restroom. But they’re like okay, fine, and they kind of pointed her back down there. So she went down, there was a door on the side that was cracked open, and as she peeked in as she walked by, you just kind of glance in, there was a mattress on the floor. And she thought, well that’s odd. Why would somebody have a mattress in a nail salon?
So, same thing. She was able to ask around about it, and they said you know, that’s generally what we see happening. We’ll find a mattress in a nail salon or a place like that, where we have people that are brought in from other countries. And then they’re brought in, their identity is taken, and they’re told you can’t speak to anyone because you’re here illegally and if you say anything you’re going to go to jail. So they’re afraid to speak up. Like I said, there’s a lot of intimidation that goes along with it.
Now, the lovely thing about The Slave Across The Street, when you pick up that book, is that it tells Theresa’s story and she’s a rare glimpse into human trafficking because she was a victim and yet she’s been able to come not only survive it, get out of it, and then she’s been vulnerable enough to tell us her story.
And so that’s what we read in the first probably two-thirds of The Slave Across The Street. There’s a lot of redemption there. People read her story and they tell me I read it in twenty-four, maybe forty-eight hours, because it’s so riveting you just keep turning the pages, what’s going to happen. And we go with her into every situation. But it’s not so graphic. I mean, you know what’s happening, but it’s not so graphic that you can’t have your high-schoolers read it. It lets you know without being ridiculous.
And then the last part of it talks about this is how to recognize it in your community. This is how to protect the community that you live in. This is how to protect the community that you’ve built by raising your family here. And so she’s got all these wonderful ways of doing that.
And then she talks about how to see it and making sure that your children are protected, making sure your children are wise and being aware of what they’re doing. So there’s a lot of great information for every reader. I think every parent should read this. I’ve had aunts and uncles say give me that book, I really care about my nieces and nephews. They’ve picked it up.
So the awareness is there, and I have to say, when people have come to me and said we’re just going to educate the girls, we’re just going to let them know what to look out for. I have to say you know what? That’s not the solution. Because none of these girls wanted to be where they are. They were tricked, they were coerced, a lot of them were picked up and kidnapped off the streets. They’re not there because they were stupid.
The people that come and take them are cruel and they’re evil. So it’s up to us as a community to be aware of what’s going on in our community and to protect our environment.
Cynthia: Wow. I know I couldn’t put the book down. I was just going to read a little bit and then drift off to sleep, and I kept turning pages. And I actually felt terrible the next day because when I did fall asleep, I had bad dreams. It was very gut-wrenching to realize that this is happening. And it’s not in another part of the world. It is in your neighborhood that people are doing this kind of stuff.
And that’s when the story of my own situation came back. I thought well, I was suspicious then, but the story laid out for me I thought oh my goodness, this was something super dangerous. I sensed it, but I didn’t think about it much. I kind of dumped it in the back of my mind and went on. Mercy. It’s just horrendous.
What are some things that parents can do to educate themselves so they know how to handle this?
Peggy Sue: One of the gals that works with the federal authorities in these trafficking issues, she did a symposium for us down in South Carolina. And she’s got daughters, and they’re grown and they’re on their own, and she said to them you have to watch the movie Taken. And her daughters just oh Mom, it’s just your job, you’re being silly. And she’s like watch the movie. You just need to understand what my concerns are.
So finally her daughter did. And her daughter called her back, and she goes okay, Mom, I get it. Because when her mother wanted her to understand living in another state, working where we know she was a single woman someplace else, she said please always let someone know where you are, where you’re going to be. Just have that accountability. It was just kind of a visual.
And sometimes that movie has helped people understand a little bit of what we’re talking about. Particularly for people that are very visual learners.
And then understanding what it looks like and where to be looking. And to know what the environment’s going to be that’s going to be kind of a hot spot for that. I’ve seen, there’s a group of truckers that are very vigilant against this because they know that girls are trafficked and brought to truck stops. And so there are some incredibly noble men that are in trucking and they are watching for that. We’ve had several girls rescued because these men will see these young girls there and they’re like you know what, I know they’re not supposed to be here. So we’ve had several girls that have been rescued because these men are watching for that.
They’re aware that the places that make a location susceptible where you’re maybe going to be seeing more trafficking is an area around a border, along an Interstate where there’s a growing immigrant population. And we have a lot of refugees that are coming into the United States, and they’re finding different communities where they can settle in. And they’re not always really aware of what’s going on. There’s the language situation for them, so if they can get plugged in with church groups right away they can help them be able to understand how to learn and function here in our community in safe ways. That’s a good thing.
I know our area here in Fort Wayne, I mean who knew? We’ve got a large Bosnian population that’s come here, and so our churches have reached out to them and set up community centers. They’re helping them so that they are able to plug in and not be taken advantage of.
Proximity to large universities. International corporations, agricultural industries. Again, we talked about military bases. And then along coastal waterways like what we had down in South Carolina. The sea islands down there, there’s a hundred and seventy islands down there. They used to do a lot of pirating. This is a different kind of pirating.
So it’s kind of just being aware of what are the factors that make a location susceptible.
Cynthia: Well, in the book it described a girl being approached like I was, and sort of groomed in the sense that she came to trust someone. Then they began to exercise control. Can you talk a little bit about how they control these girls?
Peggy Sue: Yeah. In Theresa’s situation she, again, very needy, wanting to fit in, wanting somebody to like her. So this boy starts paying attention to her. Then it’s like here, let me give you a ride home from school, even though she knew she wasn’t supposed to she went with him. Then instead of taking her home he takes her to his home, and then she knew she shouldn’t go in but he’s like oh just come in for a minute, I’ve got to get something, I want to get to know you better and then I’ll take you home.
And of course then he gives her a drugged drink, and then he rapes her. And then a couple of days later when she finally picks herself up and goes back to school, he gives her a manila envelope, and there are photos of her. This had all been planned out ahead of time. So while he was raping her one of his cousins was there taking photos.
Now, these 8×10’s, on those photographs, you can’t tell whether it’s a rape or whether it’s just consensual. And of course, there is the blackmail. If you do not do now what we ask you to do, we are going to show these to your parents. We’re going to post them all over the church. We’re going to post them all over school.
And again, you’re talking to a young girl. Not somebody who’s going to be able to stand up and say knock yourself out, go ahead, and call their bluff. This is a child; it’s someone who’s really feeling like they’re vulnerable.
Anytime she did maybe say I’m not going to do what you want, or have a little bit of hesitation, her dog would be taken away and was killed. Then she saw her brother be threatened. So she ended up feeling like she was responsible for the health and even the lives of her family. And so that’s the kind of thing that you’ll see happening.
There’s always this incredible coercion where the stakes are so high for the victim. They feel so responsible to protect the people that are precious to them. That’s what they do. They are doing what they can to protect other people.
Cynthia: And what got me was that this was going on for two years and her parents did not know until finally she got in a situation where a policeman brought her home when her parents thought she was in bed. So the whole thing was happening while everybody else was going to school and nobody checked up on her to see if she was where she was supposed to be. It just went under the wire, completely. And it just blows your mind.
Peggy Sue: And there were two things that went along with that. First off, her parents were not particularly tied in. And that’s one of the things I love about Theresa, and you as a homeschool mom, me as a homeschool mom, one of the things that we always say is be tied in with what your kids are doing. Be aware of where they are.
My friends that have their children in public school and have them in private school, we always tell them stop in once in awhile. Absolutely show up at their PE practice, or pull in one day and sit in on their class. Show up during lunch and surprise them. But you need to be the one who drops them off at school, pick them up. You need to be the one that takes them to their band occasions, their sports events where they go. You be that parent that is around that knows who their circle of influence is, who knows the people there that they’re hanging with and they’re hanging around them. You be the home that everybody comes to, because that way you’re able to make sure that your children are protected.
Theresa didn’t have that going on in her life. Some of the people when they would maybe, like some of the school people, maybe would be a little bit suspicious, but they were also being threatened. The other thing is who would, on the face of the earth, imagine such a thing would go on? Which is another reason why her parents, even when the police brought her back, they couldn’t fathom it. They couldn’t accept it. So even when the police brought her back and suggested this might be happening, they dismissed it. They’re like that’s not possible. They just could not imagine that such a thing was going on.
That’s the other thing; it seems so fantastic that some people just don’t follow it. So it is so important for us as parents, and I know parents a lot of times will send their kids to bed and then not check on them again. We’ve all heard stories. I mean, my aunts will tell me stories about slipping out of her bedroom to go hang out at her friend’s late one night, and she said her mother found out and the next morning there was a very large cactus planted right outside her window.
But the cute thing about that was the mother was aware. And the message was clear. You know what, baby doll? You belong in bed at night, not out on the street, and I’m aware, and I care about you. And so as parents it’s very important we check on our children throughout the day, throughout the night. Know where they are.
We have to be involved with them. We have to know who they’re talking to on the Internet. We now all have cell phones, and so our children have phones. We have no idea who they’re talking to on their phones. We need to check those regularly, see who’s on their contact list, we need to check their histories, we need to have conversations with our children, who are you talking to.
The computer that they are on needs to be in the common area of the house so that, again, you know who that they are conversing with over the Internet. There need to be times where the Internet is off because you’re just doing homework. You need to have nannies on your computer so they don’t get into sites that they’re not supposed to.
I do know of a case where there was a man who got on and just groomed a girl over the Internet, then managed to meet up with her somewhere else. And she was a very young girl, he was far older than her, and we had the same situation with her. So it’s very much we as parents, because our children are young, they’re immature, we make goofy decisions as adults, you know. But a child needs guidance; they need a parent.
We parent our children longer than any other species on the planet, and it’s because as humans we need that extra guidance. As parents we need to make sure we are involved with our children, know where they are, give them guidance, instruct them, teach them, and help them to know how to make wise decisions and to stay out of things that are not going to be safe for them.
Cynthia: Well, I never told my mother that story. I guarantee you if I had told her she would have picked me up every day from school and taken me home. But she never dreamed that would happen.
Peggy Sue: Now that’s fascinating, Cynthia because that’s you have just absolutely put your finger on exactly what happens with victims. Because what happened in that, what was the shame involved that you didn’t tell your mom? You see?
Cynthia: I wasn’t ashamed. I just wrote it off and never thought of it again, because I didn’t feel like I was in danger because I said no to him.
Peggy Sue: Got it. Got it. A lot of girls get approached by something like that, and they’re just so embarrassed they don’t say anything, and then it’s allowed to escalate.
Cynthia: All those years went by and when I read the book that story resurfaced, and I thought I was in more danger than I realized.
Peggy Sue: You were. And praise God that you were protected in that moment. And, like Theresa said in her book, as she was going along, it was towards the end of her two years, she saw them starting to groom another girl at her school. She knew what it looked like. And the same thing with you. This man approached you, you said no, but he was going to be looking for somebody else.
So we need to really be in prayer that people are going to be safe, God will intervene.
Cynthia: And keep an eye out for this kind of stuff. Because I would never have been concerned about my girls. We were there most of the time, we homeschooled as well, and there were times we let them have freedom. But we generally knew who they were with and what was going on. We had our antennas up all the time. So the Lord took care of us.