SEX TRAFFICKING: Survivors welcome FBI sweep with hope - KMSP-TV

SEX TRAFFICKING: Survivors welcome weekend FBI sweep with hope

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The nationwide sweep that netted 150 pimps and rescued 105 child sex victims is welcome news to survivors who were controlled by pimps in their teens, and FOX 9 News spoke with two who broke free.

Rowena and Quanasia are the real-life faces of sex trafficking in the Twin cities, but fortunately, both have been free from it for about a year.

"I'm still learning how to be a woman," admitted Quanasia.

As a young woman who had her womanhood exploited by another at a young age, it helps to be in the company of those who are breaking free from sex trafficking.

"I feel like an angel whose wings are spread," Rowena told FOX 9 News. "I feel lovely. I feel beautiful."

Both Rowena and Quanasia started working the streets at age 18, and Rowena was controlled by a pimp for 10 years.

"That mind control," she recalls. "You say, 'Jump!' I say, 'How high?'"

Rowena admits she felt "like used goods," and as though "nobody would ever love" her.

"Always felt that way," she admitted.

Many vulnerable girls who are exploited experience those emotions, and can feel trapped by them.

"I knew there was no way out," Quanasia said. "I automatically knew it."

Still others may feel wanted or grown up as they enter the sex trade, but Quanasia says perception is much different than the reality.

"That life isn't grown-up life," she said. "That life can get you killed."

Over the weekend, FBI agents arrested 150 pimps -- four in the Twin Cities -- and rescued more than 100 teens from sex trafficking nationwide.


Rowena and Quanasia were also taken off the streets by police.

"I felt saved then," Rowena disclosed. "I actually felt saved."

Now, the two get assistance from Breaking Free, an organization geared toward helping girls get off the streets. The counselors, former prostitutes themselves, have experience that can put them on a new path.

"I ran away from home and, within 24 hours, I was recruited by a pimp," counselor Jennifer Gains told FOX 9 News.

At the time, Gains was just 14 years old.

"It's a wild world out there," she warned. "A lot of evil, a lot of people waiting to prey on your brokenness."

Joy Friedman, another counselor with Breaking Free, entered the sex trade at 15. After spending years out of the world's oldest profession, she is dedicating herself to helping show others how to escape.

"We are not a piece of meat," she insisted. "Breaking free gives us an opportunity to show that we are more than a piece of meat. I want men and people to know it's coming to an end and it's got to stop --today."

The women, who call themselves survivors, say more FBI seeps are needed -- along with more advocates who will help support victims of the sex trafficking because help and hope are crucial parts of breaking free.

Both Rowena and Quanasia are now working toward an education and finding jobs. Rowena hopes to become a juvenile probation officer to help other teens while Quanasia hopes to begin a career in cosmetology.

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