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U.S. Midwest in crosshairs of child sex trafficking fight

By Deborah Feyerick & Sheila Steffen, CNN

Tamara Vandermoon is barely recognizable in the photo she holds up; her face is swollen and bruised, her eyes nearly battered shut. She was 19 at the time. “My pimp had beaten me and stomped my face,” she says. “I was black and blue.”

The Minnesota woman has seen a lot in her relatively short life. Abandoned by her father and angry at her mother, she ran away when she was 12, the same age she turned her first trick trading sex for money and gifts.

“I just wanted to be accepted and loved. I was told how beautiful I was and if you do this I’ll get you this … and I’ll make you my girlfriend.” Before she knew it she was prostituting herself up to 50 times a night, the money going to her pimp or to feed the drug habit she developed, she says, to “numb the pain” of her life.

Her eyes fill with tears as she remembers: “I was just a baby. I was 12 and they preyed on me. What would a grown man want with a twelve-year-old child?!” Now 31, she is finally getting out after nearly two decades in the sex-trade.

When it comes to child and adolescent sex-trafficking in the United States, the FBI ranks Minneapolis-St. Paul among the top 13 places in the nation. With its tangle of highways known as Spaghetti Junction, its year-round sporting events and frequent conventions, millions pass through on any given day. “There’s the thought no one’s going to catch you in the Midwest,” says Dan Pfarr who works with teens in crisis.

Source: www.cnn.com/freedom

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