Former victim of human trafficking helps raise awareness among lawmakers

U.S. Atty: It's a crime that hides in plain sight

DENVER - When many people hear the term human trafficking, they think of third world countries.

But law enforcement officials say human trafficking is a big problem in Colorado.

U.S. Attorney John Walsh calls it a crime that hides in plain sight.

Colorado Attorney General John Suthers says it's a $32 billion global industry.

On Thursday, the Human Trafficking Task Force of Southern Colorado raised awareness about the issue at the State Capitol.

Aubrey Lloyd was a featured guest.

She became a victim of human traffickers at age 16.

"I was an honor roll student, who was lied to by a friend," she told 7NEWS.

Lloyd says she experienced "tons of abuse and confrontation" while growing up.

"I wanted to go to college," she said. "My friend encouraged me to run away because it would be an easier place to do homework."

Lloyd says what she didn't realize was that individual wasn't really her friend, but instead was a recruiter for a pimp.

"That night, I was asked to join her escort service," Lloyd said. "I said, 'No,' and was then drugged and raped."

Lloyd said she was sold over and over and over and lost the ability to use her own name.

She said the same thing happened to her younger sister, who eventually committed suicide.

After spending a year as a child prostitute, Lloyd was able to escape that lifestyle with the help of another drug dealer. She says she struggled with self worth and didn't talk about what happened for 17 years.

"I had family that said it was my choice and called me a whore," she said. "I had professionals who said it was my choice and that I was a sexual deviate."

Lloyd says she met a woman named Betty Edwards six years ago and that Edwards walked her into a human trafficking task force meeting.

"At first, I didn't know why we were there," Lloyd said, "then they started talking about child prostitution and I identified with that."

That's when Lloyd learned that what happened wasn't her fault. She learned that she had a voice and began her road to redemption.

Now, Lloyd spends her time trying to help other victims of human trafficking.

Although she still has occasional nightmares, she doesn't consider herself a victim anymore.

"I'm a victor," she said, "an overcomer."

She wants other people, who've been lured into slavery or prostitution, to see what she's been able to accomplish.

"To all those people who said I'd never finish high school, I have my master's degree," she said. "To my pimp, who said I'd never amount to anything, I've not only helped spread advocacy around this country but have started my own nonprofit and my own ministry."

Lloyd drew applause when she held up her left hand, showed her wedding ring and said, "To all the people who said I would never find love, that I would never be valued and loved as a woman who was prostituted as a teenager, my husband calls you a liar."

Rep. Beth McCann, D-Denver, says human trafficking is far more common than most people think.

McCann is sponsoring legislation to strengthen laws against human trafficking.

Her bill calls for a Human Trafficking Council to coordinate efforts among law enforcement, prosecutors, human services and service providers.

She said her proposal would also give victims of human trafficking the same protection afforded to victims of sexual assault in court.

"Defense attorneys would not be able to go into the sexual history of the victims," she said.

When asked why that was important, McCann said the victims, mostly girls, have a relationship that involves coercion by someone they look at as their provider.

"They're young," she said. "They're not strong people. They've often been abused and they're vulnerable. We need to help them summon the courage and the ability to testify,"

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