The Secretive World of Forced Prostitution; Victim Speaks Out

, Written by Christine Pitawanich, Posted: Wed, November 27 2013 at 6:12 PM, Updated: Wed, November 27 2013 at 9:33 PM

Earlier this week, police arrested two people who allegedly played roles in forcing two women to have sex for money and holding them against their will.

Now we're getting a glimpse into the secretive world of prostitution, from a woman who lived a similar nightmare and got out.

23-year-old Staysha Hackmann still struggles to get past, her past.

Looking in the Mirror Means Painful Memories

A large tattoo on her neck is visible. She said it was put there by a man she once trusted as her boyfriend. After roughly six months, he eventually became her captor. She was only 19.

"It's a branding. He wanted everybody to know that I belonged to him. It's his stamp," explained Staysha.

In the beginning she says he stretched her boundaries and eventually told her since she was having sex already, she may as well help them both make money.

"It was do it, or get beat."

At first, she wasn't comfortable with the idea, but he eventually convinced her. However, after the reality set in, she says she wanted out...but was unable to leave.

"It was do it or get beat [...] there was no other option," she said.

"It's no longer a choice once you realize that this is not something you want to do."

Staysha said she was able to escape when her captor was put in jail for a different crime.

She is just one of the many people in Medford who find themselves living a life of prostitution...one they desperately want out of.

Abuse Behind Closed Doors

"You don't see the emotional, mental and physical abuse that's happening behind closed doors that's making me afraid to leave, afraid to go anywhere else because this person has threatened my life many times. This person has told me if I leave they'll hunt me down and kill my family," said Hackmann.

That kind of control keeps victims silent and makes cases difficult for police to prosecute.

It's not good, when police and Staysha say many victims are still out there.

"In Medford alone, on the two major websites that are available for that, on any given day, there's at least 20 girls posted," she said.

According to Staysha, that's not even counting girls who walk the streets or take car dates.

A Different World Operating in Front of Our Eyes

"People don't think it's happening in Medford because people don't want to know it's happening. People don't want to know it's happening everywhere in their backyard," said Staysha.

However, even while police have said it happens virtually every hour of every day in Medford, few victims come forward. Many of them even believing they love their captor.

"I had this feeling of loyalty to him. So when he would beat me and he would bring me down, I truly believed that it was my fault that I did something wrong to deserve that," Staysha recalled.

History of Abuse Plays Role in Continued Victimization

"Not only was I in a vulnerable place, I was young. I had been an abused child, I had gone through a lot of different struggles in my life. So I craved that human love and compassion."

In addition, Staysha said many women are afraid to come forward because they believe police will treat them like criminals.

"It's scary because they're talking to you like you did something wrong until they realize that you're in a bad situation and that you don't want to be there anymore," she explained.

According to Detective Williams with the Medford Police Department, police are going through a paradigm shift. Previously, it was common for authorities to arrest prostitutes and treat them like criminals, however now police are beginning to view them more as victims.

Williams said more and more investigators are realizing that most prostitution cases involve people who have a history of victimization.

Trying to Move Forward

Meanwhile, Staysha said she still suffers from PTSD, anxiety and depression. But she's taking life one day at a time.

"I'm going to school now and I'm actually studying psychology so I can help future women who have been victims become survivors."

She's thankful she got out and now hoping she'll help others do the same.

Have a Family Member Who's Been Forced into Prostitution?

According to Staysha maintaining family ties are extremely important.

"If you have somebody that's in that lifestyle then try to be there for them because that's what they need the most. If your family turns you away because they think that you're disgusting, then what else does that person have. That person has no hope at that point."

Staysha's Message to Girls Stuck Having Sex for Money: You're Worth More

Staysha wanted to send a message to girls who are still living a nightmare that she was fortunately able to escape.

"As dangerous as it can be to start looking for [help], your life is worth more. Do it. Find someone to help you. Call the police. Get out, because there's help out there for you. You're not going to be treated as a criminal if you come forward as a victim," said Staysha.

Additional Resources

If you or someone you know needs help, you can contact Detective Jim Williams with the Medford Police Department at 541-774-2232.

Redemption Ridge is a Medford-based organization that helps minors who have been victims of sex trafficking. Their phone number is 1-888-256-7921. More information is on the following website: http://www.redemptionridge.com/

You can also contact the National Human Trafficking Resource Center 24-hours a day, seven days a week, every day of the year. They allow phone calls, or text messages to 1-888-373-7888. Their website: http://www.polarisproject.org/what-we-do/national-human-trafficking-hotline/the-nhtrc/overview

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About the Author

Christine Pitawanich

Christine Pitawanich was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest. In 2010, she received a master's degree in Broadcast Journalism from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University in New York.

Christine also has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications from the University of Washington.

Before joining the NBC5 News team, she had the opportunity to file reports from Washington D.C. for WFFT FOX Ft. Wayne News in Indiana. Christine has also interned at KOMO-TV in Seattle.

Christine loves to ski, try new food and have fun in the outdoors.

Catch Christine anchoring weekdays on NBC 5 News at 5pm.

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