The Van Wert County Courthouse

Saturday, Jul. 2, 2022

Flores speaks to crowd at Niswonger PAC

SCOTT TRUXELL/independent writer

She was a victim of human trafficking as a teenager, and now as a survivor and licensed social worker, she travels the country to share her story.

Theresa Flores spoke to several hundred people at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center on Tuesday night and explained how, at just 15, she was drugged, raped, and forced to work as a sex slave for two years, all in the upper-middle class Detroit suburb of Birmingham, Michigan.

Teresa Flores speaks at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center of Northwest Ohio on Tuesday evening. Scott Truxell/Van Wert independent

Flores said her story shows how human trafficking was, and is, a problem in areas large and small, rich and poor, and she shared some surprising numbers.

“Many people don’t know it’s the second leading crime in Ohio,” Flores stated. “Toledo is the third leading city in the country for human trafficking, and Ohio is the fifth leading state for the crime.”

Flores went on to explain key factors that make a state like Ohio vulnerable to human trafficking, including extensive highway systems, a high number of truck stops, the ability to leave the state in two hours or less, a large immigrant population, and large number of strip clubs.

During her presentation, Flores shared a short but moving video that showed the depths of human trafficking and sexually exploited children and explained five key components of the crime — demand, customers, traffickers, recruiters/groomers, and victims.

“We need to go after the demand and say it is unacceptable to buy another person,” Flores stated. “We think slavery was abolished hundreds of years ago, but it’s just changed forms.”

Flores said the issue of human trafficking needs to be addressed in schools, and she said adults need to be educated as well.

After her presentation, Flores and a panel made up of Jamie Evans, director of housing at the YWCA in Van Wert, along with area rape crisis workers and a sexual assault nurse, answered various questions from the audience.

Flores founded an organization called TraffickFree to build awareness about domestic sex trafficking and sexually exploited children in the U.S. She also created a non-profit organization called SOAP, which stands for Save Our Adolescents from Prostitution. More information can be found at www.traffickfree.com and www.soapproject.org.

Flores has written three books, including a best-selling memoir, The Slave Across the Street.

POSTED: 03/28/18 at 7:34 am. FILED UNDER: News