Ohio Company Helps Truckers Work To Stop Child Sex Trade


UPDATED: Thursday December 6, 2012 6:30 PM

A horrifying crime wave is sweeping the nation and touching every major city.

Human trafficking forces children into prostitution.

An FBI agent says they've rescued kids as young as 9.

Now an Ohio company, TravelCenters of America, is stepping up to help truckers become heroes.

A young woman shared a story that's eight years old, but her pain is a fresh as yesterday.

"We asked my mom if we could go down and get some Frostys before dinner," she said.

Shari was 15 and her cousin Chrissy was 14 when they walked to the fast food restaurant in Toledo.  A white car pulled up, and a stranger kidnapped them.  He took them to a brick house with barred windows.

"He just shut the door, locked it, and said that we're not leaving," Shari said.
 
And her nightmare began. They were driven to truck stops and forced to be prostitutes.

Shari's story is featured in a video done by Truckers Against Trafficking.  TravelCenters of America is requiring all its 20,000 employees to watch it.

Shari and Chrissy were part of what has become part of the fastest growing crime in America after drugs -- child sex trafficking, according to the Justice Department.

"Being forced to go from truck to truck asking if the guys would like to have sex with us. And we're young girls, terrified out of our minds," she related.

If one girl tried to escape, the pimp would batter the other.  She told the story of the night she thought that her captor was asleep. When Shari tried to escape, he threw her into a glass  table, then made her watch while he dragged Chrissy upstairs by her hair and threw her down the flight of stairs.  He did it three times, while others forced Shari to watch, she said. So Shari worked  and kept her tears inside.

"I was crying out for help but I couldn't do it, you know, because I didn't want to end up dead, I didn't want her dead and it would be my fault."

Rodney Jennings has driven cross country for 17 years and seen children like Shari at rest stops.

"Getting in and out of trucks, just going from one truck to another. And I think it's disgusting," Jennings said.

He stopped at the London TravelCenter and told us he was so worried about what he saw, that he took action.

"I bought a dash cam so I can videotape it and turn it over to the authorities,"  he said.

TravelCenters of America took action, too, by adding fliers at their sites nationwide, alerting truckers to the danger kids face and what they should watch for.

"We're looking for young children, girls or boys, maybe traveling with somebody that doesn't look like a relative or a parent.  They may look withdrawn, or scared," said Rodney Bresnahan, Store Operations Manager for the company.  "We really want them to contact the local authorities, or the 1-800 number of Truckers Against Trafficking." 

The company also offers cards with the hotline number on it.

"I just picked one up," Jennings said.

An alert trucker spotted Shari and Chrissy at a truck stop in Detroit and called police. 

The girls were rescued, and that was the beginning of the end of the 14-state prostitution ring they were a part of.

But there are thousands more like Shari, so this company and the truckers they serve are joining hands to help them, too.

Bresnahan said this new form of slavery also takes place around airports, railroads and shipping yards, but because truckers criss-cross the country, they can act as eyes and ears for police.

 "We can make an impact here,’ Bresnahan said.

FBI agent Evan Nicholas said that while some of the kids being trafficked are runaways, many others are like Shari and are kidnapped off the streets.

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