Sex trafficking is a growing problem across the country, including here in Arizona. A former sex slave is speaking out, saying the Phoenix market is so competitive for prostitutes, they are now flooding into Tucson to try to make money.
Sex trafficking survivor Beth Jacobs is the founder of Willow Way, a local organization that helps former sex slaves rebuild their lives.
Jacobs says she was drugged and kidnapped by two men at the age of 16. She met them at a bus stop and agreed to go to a party with them, when they gave her a drink. When she woke up, she did not know where she was and was told they were pimps.
Jacobs says she was repeatedly raped and told she would have to sell her body to make money.
"At first they kind of hold you captive. Then your self esteem gets crushed. So low that your survival instinct just kicks in," said Jacobs.
Jacobs was forced to travel all over the country with her pimps for six years. Each day could bring a new city, a new motel, rapes, beatings and a new nightmare.
"I did try to escape. Police brought me to a train station, and I was waiting in line for the bus. I got on the bus and had to get off at one stop just to go to the bathroom, and my pimp was waiting there. He beat me all the way back to Chicago," said Jacobs.
Every day, Jacobs said she was forced to bring in $300-$500. All of the money went to her pimps. They gave her a roll of quarters each day.
We asked her how many men she had to be with every day to bring in that money.
"Twenty. I've worked with trafficking victims who have had to be with 40. Imagine being with a man you love. You still can't be with them 40 times. We had to do that," said Jacobs.
Jacobs said it was very easy to find clients. All she had to do was nod, and if they nodded back she knew they were looking for a "date."
Many of the clients were found at local conventions and sporting events. Jacobs said here in Tucson, the big golf event and the gem show were considered busy season in the local sex-trade industry.
"There are plenty of people out there, trust me. The pimps are very smart. We went to big hotels and picked up convention books. We found out where the conventions were. That's where we'd go. During the World Series we'd rent out expensive hotel rooms and buy tickets and find plenty of clients there," said Jacobs.
She added that parents needed to be aware of the problem and protect their teens. Many sex slaves were going online now to advertise their services and look for clients.
"I don't think people realize how prevalent the problem is here in Tucson. This is happening. It's happening everywhere, especially here in Tucson, said Jacobs.
Pima Community College is hosting a community forum on Thursday in regards to sex trafficking in the community.
The Family Services for Community Dialogue will host the discussion from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the Amethyst Room of the PCC Downtown Campus at 1255 N. Stone Ave.
Tucson News Now Anchor Heather Rowe will be there to facilitate the discussion. There will be presenters in attendance, including survivors and experts in the study of this topic.
For more information please contact Tucson City Council Ward 6 at (520) 791-4601.
The forum tonight has been organized by Ward 6 councilman Steve Kozachik's office. Kozachik said he is very concerned about the issue, and has spent years researching sex trafficking, and hopes this forum will be a strong message for parents in our community.