A mom shares how she was sex trafficked in Brevard County. “I never thought of it as human trafficking or sex trafficking. I just thought he was my boyfriend and he was taking care of me.”
Angelique was renting an apartment with her boyfriend when their financial struggles hit an all-time low. He had jobs here and there but made most of his money as a “small-scale drug dealer,” she said.
One month, they were short on rent, and rather than asking her to pick up extra shifts at McDonald’s, which he’d asked her to do in the past, he asked her to perform sexual acts on his friends for payment.
When Angelique opened up and shared her story, she pressed her hand to her forehead at the memory. “I thought he was kidding. I said, ‘no, absolutely not,’ but then he told me if I didn’t cooperate, me and my baby would be on the street… so I did.”
The next month, they were short on rent again and the cycle continued.
“It just became a normal thing,” Angelique said. “I never thought of it as human trafficking or sex trafficking. I just thought he was my boyfriend, and he was keeping me safe.”
AN ANSWER TO PRAYER
As the months went on, Angelique said, “I felt it in my bones that this wasn’t the life God wanted for me.” A drug bust at the apartment led to a 90-day jail sentence for Angelique and a subsequent stay in a rehab facility for her drug addiction.
“I had a choice to make,” she said. “Keep doing what I was doing and lose my baby or turn my life around.”
It was in that rehab facility that she learned about sex trafficking and that she was a victim. “It was really hard to believe,” she said. “It wasn’t like the movies where someone kidnaps you and you are sold to strangers. These were people I knew.”
After rehab, Angelique came to New Life Mission where she found safe shelter, access to resources and worked toward getting her GED. Most importantly, she said, she learned that God could forgive her and that it wasn’t her fault.
Angelique’s story is similar to the stories of many other women in Brevard County and across the country. The details may be different, but the devastating impact is similar. Victims of human trafficking often experienced traumatic episodes in childhood, subsequent addiction and unhealthy relationships.
For Angelique, her mother disappeared when she was a child. Her father was not around much, working multiple jobs to sustain the family. Angelique said she basically raised her younger brother. When their dad was home, he drank a lot and his friends got high together.
“I can’t even remember how young I was when I started drinking my dad’s beer – maybe 8 or 9,” she said. “I tried pot for the first time when I was 12 and pretty much never stopped. That led to other drugs.”
Angelique was also sexually assaulted by a family friend as a teen. The rest of her life, she said, has been spent looking for unconditional love.
“Once I was out of it, people told me that I wasn’t wrong and I wasn’t a bad person,” she said. “It sounds simple to hear, but believing it is the hard part.”
At New Life Mision, our first step is to provide the basic needs of safe shelter, clothing and food to women and their children. We work to build rapport and trust and understand that relationships can be hard for victims. Our on-site case managers and counseling staff provide resources and therapy. To help women move forward, we provide educational support and career guidance, and empower them to build self-confidence. Our goal is to give them the tools they need to become self-sufficient.
Statistics can be hard to come by since many women don’t self-identify as victims. The Florida Alliance to End Human Trafficking reports that the U.S. is one of the largest consumers of human trafficking and it is the second most common criminal act behind drug trafficking.
In January 2024, Florida ranked third in the country (behind Texas and California) for the highest rates of reported sex trafficking cases. The high level of tourism makes Florida a conduit for human trafficking which, by definition, includes sex trafficking, labor trafficking, forced marriage and involuntary servitude.