Theresa Flores is a typical mother of three, but to many people's surprise, she is also a face of human trafficking.
As a middle class teen growing up in a Michigan suburb, Flores was sold as a sex slave. She re-lives the memories to bring attention to the growing problem.
"I don't want any other young girl to go through what I did," said Flores.
Flores was able to escape after two years. She shared her story during the workshop, Waiting for Us to Care-- Responding to Human Trafficking in our Communities.
"It happens quite a bit in the Lima area. A lot of our young women are sent primarily to Fort Wayne, as well as Columbus, and Covington, Kentucky. Beaverdam is our local hotspot," said Dave Gillispie, Investigator for the Lima Police Department. Gillispie is assigned to work with federal agents on human trafficking cases.
The overall message of the workshop can be boiled down to a few sentences:
Human trafficking is slavery.
It's happening where you live.
It's happening to people just like you.
"I don't see ever stopping it. If we can attempt to recover victim, especially the juveniles and get them back into a safe environment, then I think it's worth it," said Gillispie.
A wide range of people-- from nurses to church leaders-- attended the workshop to learn how to identify victims and provide them resources to break free.
"We want people to know that we're not going to stand for it. We want to get them help and we want it to stop," said Angelia Handshoe, Juvenile Court probation officer.
Flores now works for a long term residential treatment center for victims of human trafficking. And while she is all too aware of the problem, she continues to share her story so others will realize how extensive human trafficking is in the United States.
"This is happening in every zip code, and we're just mislabeling it teen prostitution when really it's human trafficking," said Flores.
Human trafficking is different than prostitution. Anybody who works in the sex trade and is under the age of 18 is considered a victim of human trafficking. Adults can be trafficked as well.
The workshop focused mostly on sex trafficking. However, human trafficking also includes forced labor. Victims and those who suspect trafficking can call the Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-3737-888.