Investigation reveals child sex slave trade in Oregon

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by By WAYNE HAVRELLY / KGW.com

NWCN.com

Posted on August 15, 2009 at 1:44 PM

Updated Monday, Sep 28 at 8:40 AM

Video: Girls sold as sex slaves in Portland

PORTLAND - Right now, 12 and 13 year old girls are being sold to strangers for sex.

It's not something that just happens overseas, it's happening at an alarming rate right here in Oregon.

The prostitutes working Portland's notorious 82nd Avenue will tell you they're in it for the cash. A girl who doesn't want to be identified started at 13 years old.

"I do it for the money, I've been doing it for so long, It's hard to find a regular job that pays this good," said the 20 year old working girl.

That's just what they're programmed to say according to Teri Williams. She's a former Portland prostitute who feels fortunate to have turned her life around.

Williams said, "You're a prisoner. No one is going to let you go. You are the pimp's meal ticket."

Those pimps target young girls. Deputy Keith Bickford with Oregon's Human Trafficking Task Force said it happens everyday right here in the Portland metro area.

"Through schools, downtown, dance clubs, the mall, anywhere you can meet these little girls is where you're going to find your pimps," said Bickford.

Diana Moffit became a prostitute and was recruited by a pimp she met at a dance. She was 16 years old at the time and emotionally vulnerable after being dumped by her boyfriend. Her mother Gayle said,

"Diana played basketball in high school, she was on rally and played volleyball. If it can happen to my child, it can happen to anybody's child."

At first the girls don't realize the truth about their boyfriends. Williams said,

"Usually the pimps will get you involved in other things first. It might be a credit card scam or a check cashing scheme. Once they have something on you, then they hold it over you to force you into doing what they want you to do."

In her first three months as a prostitute, Williams says she was forced to turn roughly 12 hundred sex acts. That's 20 tricks a day, some violent.

"I ended up getting stabbed in my neck by one of the Johns who stole my cash," said Williams.

Williams attempted to return to her parents after that bloody attack, but says her pimp kept her captive.

"I would have a cavity search done on me to make sure i wasn't hiding any money planning a getaway, then I would go into my room and be locked in there,"said Williams

She eventually escaped when her pimp was arrested on drug charges. Gayle Moffit's daughter was not so fortunate. Diana was found beaten to death after trying to leave her pimp.

Her pimp, Adrian Coleman was later convicted on pimping charges, but the Moffit homicide remains unsolved.

Today, authorities say the number of juvenile prostitutes in the Portland area has never been higher according to deputy Bickford. " There are hundreds of underage girls involved in this. Easily hundreds of girls," said Bickford.

Sometimes the girls are arrested. However, Oregon state attorneys working those cases say the arrests don't solve much because the girls don't feel safe enough to testify against pimps.

Pimps hold the power. Human trafficking investigators and government researchers estimate the average pimp in the U.S. can make more than $200,000 a year off just one young girl. The girls don't receive salaries, just clothes and a place to stay.

Remember that prostitute that started at 13? After talking with her for a while she admitted to Newschannel 8 that she desperately wants to escape her life of working the streets. However, she can't find any programs to help her.

"I tried to get help when I was arrested and haven't had any help whatsoever. They've never offered anything to me that is a long term thing that keeps me safe," said the young prostitute.

Turns out many of these young girls who sell their bodies are not in it for the cash after all.

There could be light at the end of the tunnel for hundreds of local girls trapped in prosecution.

Coming up Tuesday at 11 p.m. on Newschannel 8, we'll show you how local authorities are working with a local charity to create a safe secure place for prostitutes looking to escape.

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