Sex Trafficking Survivor Reflects on Cleveland Kidnap Case, Offers Victims Advice


University of Toledo sociologist Celia Williamson studies the sexual exploitation of teenagers and started a program that helps rescue victims. According to Williamson, young girls who are snatched and forced into prostitution often are too scared to escape or cry for help.

"Because that pimp says to her, 'I will hurt your family. I'll hurt your siblings. You better not say anything to anybody,'" Williamson said.

After a week, the girls were taken to a Michigan truck stop and again forced to have sex. A trucker recognized Sharon as underage and called police. She was rescued, but her cousin was whisked away back to that Toledo house. Sharon's mother figured out where Sharon's younger cousin was and called 911. When police finally arrived, the girls' abductors were arrested and their nightmare was over.

Sharon said she has watched the terror in Cleveland this week unfold and has been thinking about what lies ahead for the three freed kidnap victims. She herself has spent years recovering, suffering from depression and post-traumatic stress. She has also had run-ins with the law for shoplifting and served jail time.

"Some days I just don't know how I'm going to get through it," Sharon said. "I just pray and I say, just get me through this day, because I can't. I can't do it myself."

Sharon still lives in Toledo. She has two children who live with her mother and she is separated from her husband.

She offered some hard-earned words of wisdom for the survivors in Cleveland, who are just beginning their long road to recovery.

"I know what they went through was hard, OK? And I know they don't want to talk about it because it's embarrassing, what you've done, but it's not your fault. I just want to say that," she said. "No matter what happened, even if you're brainwashed to think that you wanted to do it, you didn't want to do it, and it's not your fault. You need counseling, you need professional help, and there's nothing wrong with that ... get the help you need, and use your support system, your family, and just use the things around you, and stuff. So, it gets better."

Sometimes to escape what happened to her, Sharon said she tries to surround herself with people who love her.

"When I go to the park with my children or I go with friends or family, or go to the movies," she said. "Just getting out and getting away from things that remind me of it, so it's not all bad, but it definitely is a big load to carry."

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