Slavery in Suburbia: Victim describes life as an underground sex slave
Sex trafficking of children is a vile form of modern-day slavery, and officials say it is flourishing in the Hudson Valley.
In a Turn to Tara special series, News 12 investigative reporter Tara Rosenblum spent the last eight months finding out that trafficking is happening every day, in every community, in our region.
In Part two of the four–part series, Rosenblum talks to one of the victims who was forced into the underground sex trade before she was even a teenager.
Melanie was kidnapped, raped and forced into a life of sexual slavery at the age of 12. News 12 is only using her first name only to protect her identity from the pimp who she says still wants to harm her. Melanie says her pimp started selling her the day after she was kidnapped and raped, and it wasn’t uncommon for her to service up to 10 Johns a night. Melanie told News 12 her pimp advertised her mainly on backpage.com, a website she says you can arrange for underage sex quicker than ordering a pizza.
She says she is living proof that human trafficking doesn’t just happen in back alleys and third world brothels. It happens one of America’s most opulent and affluent communities. She says she was brought to Yonkers Gateway Hotel on Yonkers Avenue over 200 times to perform all types of different sexual acts. “I’d say 85 to 95 percent of my trafficking experiences, each sexual act was conducted at a hotel.” She says it is hard facing those memories “On the outside they all look the same. But inside, there are so many different atrocities happening.” Melanie says she was also brought to the nearby Royal Regency Hotel. “They are known for their beautiful decor, they hold weddings there. I look at this place and I think of how many people were holding hands in holy matrimony downstairs while I was upstairs, tied to a bed.”
She states she was chained to a world of modern-day slavery by a violent pimp, and sold for the price of a sirloin steak at a fancy restaurant. “One of the girls that was under my pimp, he shot in front of me as a threat to me…he shot her, she died.”
Heat index of hotel incidents. Areas in red indicate higher activity.
News 12 posed a question she’s already been asked a million times…why not just escape and turn to police? “I considered that the next time I was at a buyer’s house to report the murder. But in my mind I was like, ‘why call police when a police officer just purchased me yesterday?’”
Melanie was one of the lucky ones though. Her trafficker was caught, brought to justice and imprisoned six years ago. However, Melanie’s trafficker is scheduled to be released this summer.
NY State Assembly member Amy Paulin (D-88) is fighting right now up in Albany to pass a law that would require all hotel and motel workers to undergo mandatory training on how identify victims of these online-arranged sex crimes. “This way we could try to stop these crimes from happening in the place they most frequently occur.” Paulin says the state needs to overhaul its trafficking laws. “I hope it gets passed, I think it’s a necessity. I’m shocked it hasn’t been in place.”