Human trafficking victim speaks to prostitution prevalence - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Human trafficking victim speaks to prostitution prevalence in Iowa

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CEDAR RAPIDS (KWWL) -

At age 18, Samantha's involvement in a large prostitution ring started innocently enough.

"A girl came up to me and she told me, why not get paid for what you're doing, partying and stuff," she said.

Samantha soon learned it was a lifestyle she wanted no part of.

"It turned into, 'okay you're going to be with this guy,' and I was like, 'I don't want to.'  'Well, that's money, you're going to do it,'" she said.

Drug addiction, partying, and sex took over Samantha's life and there was no getting out.

"I've been beaten up by quite a few pimps."

Samantha's story represents the horrors of these large prostitution rings, much more than relations between two consenting adults and often times involving the trafficking of minors.

A nationally-based program in Linn County called CRTEC looks to build stability in these victims' lives.

"We're the safe-haven catcher's mitt for the victim. To help them figure out what just happened and how to move forward," said Melissa Brisbin, with the Center to Restore Trafficked and Exploited Children.

Iowa has not been immune to this criminal activity.   In April, a large prostitution sting in Coralville led to 17 arrests, including that of a woman who used a minor for her online business.

Investigators say web sites like Backpage.com make it easier for these criminals to operate.

'I think law enforcement are more aware now that there's more than just the prostitution," said Lt. Kevin Kinney with the Johnson County Sheriff's Department.

Police are working to break up more of these prostitution rings.

After a year and a half, Samantha has finally broken away from the concision, but for her, the memories will never be erased.

"It's ugly. You become ugly and just worn out."

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