"I was naive and he played on that."
At age 16, Rachel left her home and her parents for a man posing as an attorney. He promised her a life of big city lights and riches. Instead, those dreams became a living nightmare. Rachel was taken to the streets and to truck stops. She was forced to have sex, often 10 or 12 times a day, with paying customers.
"There's a tremendous market right now." Captain Guy Turner of the Westlake Police Department attributes the expected surge in sex trafficking during the RNC in Cleveland to the 500-mile rule.
In Westlake, officers have been meeting with staff at local hotels and actively trolling sites like backpage.com. It's estimated 70 percent of internet sex advertising is done on that site alone.
"We pose as a John. We set them up and then we make the arrest,” said Turner. "If the person is a victim of human trafficking, we can perhaps rescue them and arrest the person responsible."
Each year nearly 1,100 Ohio children become victims of sex slavery. "We've seen women and girls from every suburb," said Renee Jones. For 14 years, Jones has counseled victims of human trafficking through her empowerment center on W. 65th in Cleveland.
Maureen Kenny is an attorney at Case Western Reserve University, specializing in these cases. She says the RNC is helping to raise awareness about how much of a problem the sex trade is in Cleveland.
Nine days before the convention on July 9, hundreds of volunteers from S.O.A.P. (Save our Adolescent from Prostitution) will visit 300 hotels in Cleveland and surrounding counties. The volunteers will pass out missing persons flyers to front desk staff. On them are pictures of children, ages 13, 14, 15, thought to be at risk for human trafficking.
Volunteers also distribute bars of soap with the National Human Trafficking Hotline number on the back. The goal is for the hotels to put them inside their guest rooms. It’s an idea from the founder of S.O.A.P., Theresa Flores -- a trafficking victim who believes it could save lives.
"This was God's plan. So I could help girls." For Rachel, a probation officer saved her life at age 29. Her pimp was never arrested for trafficking. She has forgiven all those who violated her. She says she had to, so she can move on and to now devote her life to saving others.
CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - Who is most at-risk?
- runaway or homeless youth
- foreign nationals - disconnected with family and friends
- drug or alcohol issues
- previously abused
- stops going to school
- hangs around a dominant older man, boyfriend
- avoids eye contact
- appears afraid to talk or coached on what to say
- appears disoriented or confused, or shows signs of mental or physical abuse?
What should you do if you see something suspicious?
- call 911
- call local police
- call hotline
- don't intervene
Download the Cleveland 19 News app.