Human trafficking victim calls for treatment, not jail

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(January 17, 2016) – When she was sixteen, Aubrey Lloyd was already the victim of a broken, dysfunctional home. Her father was in prison, her mother was abusing drugs and she had been a child sex abuse victim.

That profile set her up perfectly to be forced into a life of teenage prostitution, lured by an older woman who complimented Aubrey while she worked behind the counter of a convenience store after school.

“My friend encouraged me to run away to her house, which appeared to be more stable, and so I made that decision, again, with my sixteen-year-old brain, and found myself involved in the escort service and had no idea how to get out of it.

“That night I went out with all of them and I was drinking a can of soda which I really feel was laced with something because I blacked out from that point and woke up to being sexually assaulted. After that sexual assault was over, my then pimp came in and told me that was the last time I would ever tell him, ‘No.’”

What followed was a year of physical and sexual abuse while being plied with drugs and sold to strangers.

“They were taking teenage girls to house parties and apartments and to hotels, and there was a lot of people there, and we were expected to do whatever was asked of us,” said Aubrey. “There was lots of drugs around. Lots of violence around .

“We all had quotas of how much money we had to bring him at the end of the night. I might make my quota but one of the other girls didn’t so I might get beat for that and vice versa.”

Aubrey said the girls in the ring were so intimidated and threatened that they didn’t know whom to trust.

“The purchasers weren’t always these kind of stereotypical sex offenders that you may think of. They were judges and attorneys and people that looked like you, professional in suits, and so we didn’t know where we could go. Everyone seemed aware but no one seemed to help us.

“Most of the men that were purchasing me were very aware that I was under the age of 18, and so whether I chose to be a commercial sex worker or not, I was still very close to not looking like I was 18.

Ironically, it was a drug dealer who convinced Aubrey to break away, and a terrified john confronted with a crying teenage girl, who led the teen back to her family.

While Aubrey struggled to recover in a mental health care facility, her younger sister fell into the same trap, was arrested, and later committed suicide.

“It’s hard to be able to heal when you’re being punished for what victimized you,” said Aubrey. “When you’re thrown into detention, and it’s different than if you’re put into a treatment facility. Just in the way that a cop will handle you if you’re a victim is completely different if they think that you’re the criminal or the perpetrator.”

Aubrey has rebuilt her life to earn a master’s degree and consult with lawmakers and victims through the Indiana Trafficking Victims Assistance Program.

Senate Bill 354, sponsored by Logansport Republican Randy Head and endorsed by Attorney General Greg Zoeller, would decriminalize the charges against prostitutes arrested under the age of 18 and instead treat the girls and boys as victims.

Senator Head said when former Subway spokesman Jared Fogle pleaded guilty to federal charges of child pornography and traveling across state lines to have sex with a minor, it brought attention to the issue of teen prostitution.

“His case has done a lot to raise awareness among people who would have never even thought of this before and now we’re using Jared Fogle as an example of, number one, not what to do, but also the horrible crime of human trafficking that plays into a lot of these decisions,” said Head. “A lot of people who would go do this kind of thing like Jared don’t know what the girl has been through. They don’t have any idea that they’re being trafficked. They do think it is a conscious choice and this is something that girl wants to do and don’t know otherwise. We’re using that case as an example of how wrong that thinking is.”

Fogle was sentenced to more than 15 years in prison after telling a federal judge that, at the time, he thought the two sixteen-year-old girls he paid for sex while on visits to New York City were prostitutes making adult decisions, but then realized they were actually victims of sex abuse.

Senator Head said it was unlikely his bill would get a hearing scheduled by Senator Mike Young due to the packed senate calendar during this short session, though he was intent on amending his proposal onto legislation cracking down on child pornography.

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