According to the FBI, sex trafficking of children in this country has become a nationwide problem. And traffickers target troubled girls with low self-esteem — girls like Alyssa Beck.
Beck was just a naïve 15 year old living in Jacksonville, Florida, when she found herself trapped in a sex trafficker’s web. She would be in and out of their trap for almost five years.
CBS News correspondent Michelle Miller has been following Beck’s story and the horrific world of sex trafficking of kids. It could happen to anyone – that’s why actor and activist Ashton Kutcher has taken on this cause to save other young victims.
Alyssa Beck: I was searching for something. …But I didn’t know what I was searching for. …I just wanted to be free. …I don’t remember being popular when I was growing up. But I always got good grades. …I was really nice and sweet as a child. …But we had problems at home. … There has to be something else. Something better than living like this. …I’m just gonna run away.
Heather Beck | Alyssa’s mom: The first couple of times Alyssa ran away, you know, we would get in the car, we would drive around. …I have no idea where she was. I was terrified. Is she in the dumpster or is she in that trash bag on the side of the road and will I ever see her again?
Alyssa Beck: I didn’t know the streets, so I didn’t know the bad things that came with it.
Alyssa Beck: I just thought that it would be fun, you know, maybe party, maybe drink. …But I never would of been prepared for what really happened.
Lawanda Ravoira | President, Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center: I would describe Alyssa when I first met her as afraid. As cautious. …Her experiences were some of the most violent, the most traumatic, that I’ve seen.
Alyssa Beck: My every day life was laying there, naked, beaten and allowing guys to come and pay 10, 20 dollars to do whatever they wanted to me.
Mac Heavener| Prosecutor: She was being forced to do it.
Mac Heavener: We are talking about buying and selling children for sex acts.
Michelle Miller: How many men?
Shannon Schott | Juvenile justice expert and lawyer: Fifty. …Over the course of two weeks.
Heather Beck: It never crossed my mind in my wildest dreams that my child was involved in human trafficking.
Sen. Bob Corker | R-Tenn: Our first witness today is Mr. Ashton Kutcher.
Ashton Kutcher[ to Congress]: As part of my anti-trafficking work, I’ve met victims in Russia, in India, victims in New York and New Jersey and all across our country. …I’ve been on FBI raids where I’ve seen things that no person should ever see.
Kutcher gives emotional testimony at hearing on ending modern day slavery
Ashton Kutcher: I have a hard time talking about this issue without being emotional.
Michelle Miller: Why this cause?
Ashton Kutcher: I was just so appalled … If you don’t do something about it, then who are you?
Ashton Kutcher: It can happen to anyone … Traffickers prey on people and they know exactly what’s gonna turn their trigger.
Alyssa Beck: These traffickers made me feel like I was loved. You know I was running from something … and I was running to love and acceptance.
Shannon Schott: She believed these men until they were actively hurting her.
Alyssa Beck: I didn’t want to die. You know I saw some light at the end of the tunnel. And I just knew, like I had to get out of the situation. I had to live through this. …And that is when it got real.
TARGET: TROUBLED TEENS
Alyssa Beck, now 23, never imagined she would become a victim of child sex trafficking.
Alyssa Beck: Whenever I’m over on this side of town, I kinda feel chills in my body. …It brings back a lot of memories
But this is not just Alyssa’s story; the sex trafficking of children is a nationwide problem.
It’s why every year the FBI launches Operation Cross Country, a vast sting operation to rescue children.
This past year alone, in just four days, the FBI recovered 84 children and arrested 120 alleged sex traffickers.
Special Agent Courtney Harrison: I mean they’re predators. They find a vulnerability and they jump on it.
Special Agent Courtney Harrison is a member of Jacksonville’s Human Trafficking Task Force. Florida is a hot spot and Harrison sees the work of sex traffickers every day.
Special Agent Courtney Harrison: They manipulate people. They’re very greedy, self-indulgent. They brag about, ‘Look at the money,” look at, ya know, “I’m enslaving these girls” is a quote that we got from one of our pimps.
And she says they target troubled girls just like Alyssa.
Alyssa grew up in a middle class family, the third of four children. She was a good student, but in her early teens, she started breaking her parents’ rules by hanging out with boys and staying out late.
Alyssa Beck: Part of it was me being a rebellious teenager. And honestly really just being a child. But also because my father and mother, they, you know, they had problems of their own. My father did used to drink and that just caused a lot of problems with the whole family.
Shannon Schott: Her life was not what she wanted.
Shannon Schott is a juvenile justice expert and Alyssa’s lawyer.
Shannon Schott: She was seeing a family situation between her mother and her father, her father who was drinking and was verbally abusive and just a very hard person to live with.
Things came to a head in March of 2008 when Alyssa was 13 years old. She and her older sister were caught sneaking a boy into their room late at night.
Alyssa Beck: I mean we were just hanging out. It was very innocent. Nothing going on.
But she says her father became enraged. As punishment, he hit them with a belt. Police were called and social services investigated the incident. In the report, Alyssa’s father admitted that he “spanked the girls,” but he did “not beat them.” He also stated he “drinks, but he does not discipline the children when drinking.”
– Chris Young Ritzen
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