Human Trafficking Happening in Oklahoma City
OKLAHOMA CITY - It's something you'd picture in a third world country -- but it's happening right here in the metro -- human trafficking.
Girls and boys used for sex while their pimps make a profit.
The numbers are staggering. More and more metro children sold into the world of modern day slavery and it doesn't always start the way we might think.
Last Fall we introduced you to Samantha, a 38 year old metro woman who was trafficked as a teenager. Her story is frightening for any parents to hear.
"I was taken and sold against what I wanted. It wasn't my choice, I wasn't given a choice. Prostituted out, not a prostitute, but prostituted out and that's a big difference" she says.
Mark Elam with OATH - Oklahomans Against Trafficking Humans says the numbers are staggering and something as simple as a lack of support at home can cause our children to be pointed down the wrong path.
"The majority is a relationship danger issue. They trust this person. They've made promises. They go with them to get out of a difficult situation. They don't feel valued. They're looking for attention or care."
It's a growing problem that hits close to home. Samantha says it's happening right in our own backyards.
"It needs to be known it happens in Oklahoma. It happens at 10th & McKinley, it happens at McKinley Park, at the McDonald's off I-40, it happens."
And just knowing the wrong people can be enough.
Last October Bethany police found the dismembered body of 19-year-old Carina Saunders behind a Homeland grocery store. Police later arrested Jimmy Massey and charged him in connection with Saunders' murder. Police say the motive is trafficking.
Elam says it's a warning sign for metro parents.
"If one girl starts acting out, they'll beat her as an example in front of the other girls. It's not often they'll murder her because their intention is to make profit. They want these girls to make them money so killing them isn't a profitable situation."
He says there are simple ways to help protect our children.
"It's about being a part of their life. Not telling them what to do or not to do, warning them about dangers. I think they know about the dangers, but they're in love or think that wouldn't happen to them, so it's really about being a part of their life and caring enough to spend time with them."
OATH hopes the Saunders tragedy gets the attention of parents who might be worried about their kids and cause them to jump in and help.
Samantha's message for victims is simple. "It's not your fault, it's not you."
Samantha adds while it can seem impossible at the time, victims need to speak up and seek help.
That help can be a phone call away.
OATH's hotline is 1-800-955-0128.