The young lady, just 22, had earned her associate degree from a junior college here in the Valley with thoughts of going on to earn her bachelor's. She took a break as she toyed with attending a culinary school.
I've no idea what her name is but she is not made up. We'll call her Amber.
Through social media Amber re-engages with a former female classmate. After three or four months of contact, the acquaintance invited Amber to a hotel party in Modesto.
The party, it would later prove, was merely a tool to get Amber hooked as a victim of a human trafficker. It was pretty much the same way Kim Mills (played by Maggie Grace) was lured into the world of trafficking in the 2008 Liam Neeson movie "Taken."
Pardon the crassness of the term, but the girl who invited Amber is known as a "bottom bitch," slang for a prostitute who is in charge of recruiting of new girls for her pimp.
After the party, Amber is in a drugged stupor for 12 hours. When she comes to, she's in a different town with all of her belongings gone.
She is already posted on the internet to provide favors to men.
The pimp gets to know her so he can use psychological warfare against her. He finds out that Amber is terrified of guns as her own father was shot to death when she was 13. Mr. Pimp makes sure that Amber sees him cleaning his weapons and mentions that he's wanted for murder in another state. It's his way of controlling her.
It took four weeks for Amber to figure a way out. With the help of Modesto Police Detective Steve Anderson, the pimp was convicted of three Valley human trafficking cases and sentenced to 12 ½ years in prison.
The victim is recovering and reportedly doing well now.
The disgusting crime of human trafficking - primarily the sex slave trade - is growing locally and unfortunately victims are as young as junior high school.
Parents, do you know what your kids are up to? You may not and what you don't know could present clear and present danger to your children.
Researchers have looked at the risk factors for a child becoming a victim of traffickers. One major factor is the child being a victim of sexual predators in their own home. The earlier a victim becomes sexually abused, the greater the psychological damage and the greater the likelihood that she will end up a victim of sexual exploitation.
Another risk factor: A person's dissatisfaction with work status or income level. Sometimes traffickers seek to recruit at the mall.
A girl who worked at the Vintage Faire Mall in 2011 was approached by a deceptively smooth-talking female. After the two engaged in small talk, the stranger asked the young employee if she enjoyed her job and was satisfied with her pay. The naïve girl told how much she made and was informed, "I make twice, sometimes even triple what you make. My job has flexible hours and you will just love my boss. Come on, let me introduce you to him."
Unfortunately, she became a victim of a pimp.
Dysfunction in the home can cause young people to be victims by causing them to want to run away. We all know these types of homes. There may be physical, emotional, and sexual abuse within the home, a lack of care, a lack of food, feelings of not being wanted, or a general lack of a support. Kids tend to believe that life on the street is better if they don't feel safe and protected in their own home. Being a runaway, however, puts a child at 50 percent risk of becoming a victim of sex trafficking.
There are other risk factors, including mental health problems and drug dependency.
With the Valley rife in poverty, traffickers from the Bay Area - less than 90 minutes away - realize there is a huge potential to recruit victims from here. Often poverty breeds discontent, which is the fertilizer for some young people biting on the hook.
Unfortunately, with the Super Bowl coming to Santa Clara on Feb. 7, 2016, some of those football fans will be looking to pay for sex. An estimated 10,000 "prostitutes" were brought into Miami for the 2010 Superbowl. Many of those were sex slaves.
The problem of human trafficking won't go away unless there is a vast moral conversion of all the dirtbags who make money off of destroying our young people and those who buy them.
Sex traffickers are able to make money "selling" their victims for sex because of the demand. The demand obviously won't go away until something is done for the "johns."
"Why don't we say more about buyers, or johns?" asks Carol Shipley of the Family Justice Law Center. "If we don't address the demand issue, we will get nowhere."
She advocates dispensing the term "john" and calling them "slave owners" or "sex buyers."
Legislation is being crafted to stiffen the penalties for anyone buying the sexual services of a minor. But obviously the human heart must be changed.
Dominique Roe-Sepowitz, a social worker at Arizona State University who addressed the problem of prostitution for the Arizona Superbowl, is concerned about young men and boys "getting the message that buying and selling human beings is okay. We can change that."
Our kids are bombarded with sexual messages all the time. It's little wonder that they believe and practice in unbridled sex. We've got to pressure Hollywood to lay off gratuitous sex in TV and movies. Lots of young people believe sex without boundaries is normal and okay because they see it in films that grownups put together. Hollywood is the biggest pimp in the world.
We ought to be impressing on our young men that those girls who are being sold for pleasure are someone's daughter or sister, and who would want their sister being used in such a manner? The same young man who buys a stranger's body would likely be the guy who would tear up anyone who enslaved, beat, dominated or caused their sister to act in a truly demeaning way. It can't be both ways.
Educate yourself folks. Don't bury your heads in the sand. If you have a hunch that a young person is being abused or the victim of a trafficker, get involved and call police.
As members of the human race, we all are a part of the solution one by one.