Medford, Ore. –It begins with an innocent conversation on a dating website. But it is actually just the portal to a trafficking scheme that stretches across the country.
In this exclusive NBC5 News Special Report, a local sex trafficking survivor explains the “playbook” of an alleged trafficker.
We met a young Rogue Valley woman who got away from a man she says lured her into a sex trafficking plot.
According to the young woman, the alleged trafficker – who we are not naming because he has not been charged – preys on women by way of popular dating sites.
Sex trafficking survivor Staysha Hackman said that’s how it begins. “Any website where people are looking for a relationship, he would be on it.
Staysha, who lives in Medford, met her Philadelphia area-based trafficker on one of those sites.
According to Staysha, that is all part of the plan.
First, the initial contact, then a visit.
“Once he feels he has the information he needs to get you to fall in love with him, he will bring you out for a visit.”
Staysha said that would be a weekend of dinners, movies, Broadway shows – you name it.
And then, Staysha said this alleged trafficker would send the girls back home.
“He’s had girls come multiple times for multiple visits in order to really sink his claws and make them feel he cares.”
She said many come back. And when they do, it is straight to work.
“You start at five in the evening. You work until the club closes, technically a double shift. And this was Monday through Saturday.”
By “club”, Shayna means strip club. She said this alleged trafficker put the girls to work in a strip club in Philadelphia.
In 2008, federal prosecutors convicted an alleged trafficker of running a prostitution ring that spanned four east coast states.
The federal indictment says he ran “at least five prostitutes at a time who he required to work six days a week” for ten hours a day.
And while Staysha says they made up to $17,500 a night, she gave it all to him.
“You get in the car and you count your money and you write your total on the top bill.”
And according to Staysha, this alleged trafficker also goes to great lengths to avoid prosecution, by stressing the women are with him of their own free will.
He even makes them sign a statement to that effect.
“You have to sign a paper that says you are here of your own accord. You can leave at any point in time and you have to get it signed in front of a notary.”
It’s very clever, and he has not been charged.
As for Staysha, she is working to stay strong.
She says sharing her story is part of her healing. But she also wants to take a stand help others.
“For me, people need to know I have a name, I have wishes, hopes, dreams, desires. I’m not just an object.”
And I want there to be hope for women out there who feel like you can’t get out—that you can.